A proposed $180 million Kamai Wind Farm will be visible over a 15km radius from Waihi, Dickeys Flat campground, Paeroa and Te Aroha.
Some 220 people submitted to Hauraki District Council – the majority, 157, opposed. Another 143 submissions to Waikato Regional Council had 96 against and 42 in support. Eleven were undecided.
Kaimai Wind Ltd community liaison Clare Bayly says the submissions are the beginning of “a long term investment” and follow 3-4 years of consultation with the community.
“Now people have had the chance to say ‘yes I really like that idea’ or ‘no, we’ve got some concerns’,” she says.
“We’re not coming in to ‘do’ something to the community.
“Up until now it was way out in the future, so the RMA process is really democratic as it gives something concrete to focus on,” she says.
Twenty-four large scale wind turbines over 1304 hectares near Rotokohu Rd on the northwestern area of the Kaimai Ranges, 11km from Waihi and 5km south of Paeroa will be built under the application to HDC.
Seven would be on the ridgeline 180 metres high and 17 maximum height turbines on the lower ridgeline, 207m high.
It requires “extensive” earthworks and a substation, two transmission towers, two overhead power lines and 18km of roading with an on-site quarry.
The company says the Kaimai Ranges are unique in the upper North Island with the required wind speed and a Transpower connection point at its southern boundary and while proposed on private land, it’s adjacent to the 6,159ha Kaimai-mamamku Conservation Park that’s home to kiwi, short and longtailed bats, hochstettter’s frog and two very rare plants, the kirk’s daisy and king fern.
The company has noted two wahi tapu (sacred) sites and says neither will be impacted – however Ngati Hako say this is because the council had not yet completed its process to identify sites.
“We want it turned down on the basis that the area is significant to Ma¯ ori,” says Ngati Hako Kupenga spokeswoman Pauline Clarkin.
The Kaimai-mamaku range has four ancient walking tracks historically used by the Ngati Hako and the tribe’s historical traditions refer to Te Aroha as the stern of the waka (canoe) of the Hauraki people.
Relying on tohu (indicators) for weather, people and land, they worry the turbines will impact weather patterns and disturb the te uira (lightning) ua (rain) and kohu (mist).
“Hauraki District Council was to undergo a process for Ma¯ ori to identify [sacred] sites as part of the district plan process, and this is still outstanding – so the area is a significant landscape that is awaiting council planning protection.”
If given the go-ahead, the farm would provide an estimated 15 fulltime jobs. Most of the work is expected to be done within 18 months and will be done by consultants – 81 planning, design and project management jobs – as well as during the 18 months that it’s expected to take to construct (179 fulltime jobs).
Various hui have been held with the five iwi identified in the area and Ngati Hako say there’ll be no economic benefit to their iwi.
“There is already power generation from Tirohia that contributes to the national grid. The economic benefit is to private individuals who have agreed to have these turbines placed on their land,” says Ms Clarkin.
The site may provide a corridor along which seabird species migrate from Miranda to the Tauranga Harbour, Ohiwa Harbour, Maketu Estuary/ Kaituna River mouth and Waihi Estuary/pukehina Spit region,” an assessment by Kessels Ecology showed.
Promoting its positives, Kaimai Wind says the farm has the potential to assist in the Government’s target for 90 per cent of electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025.