May 16, 2019
New Zealand

Farmer opposed to Kaimai-Mamaku windfarm project

The Country | 16 May, 2019 |

Al Sorley owns a mobile solar energy business and believes green energy is inevitable as a way forward.

Which is why the Dickeys Flat farm owner says he was confused over his feelings when a $180 million wind farm was proposed nearby.

“When I first saw the plans, I think what got me was the enormity of the whole thing and the sinking feeling of peace and tranquilly when I look at the mountain and connect with it, that felt quite vulnerable at that point.”

Kaimai Wind Farm is seeking consent to build 24 huge wind turbines over 1304ha on the mountain and border of the Kaimai-Mamaku conservation park.

Mr Sorley prepared a presentation to give to the community, putting the enormity of some of the work into terms that people can relate to.

He says the 24 platforms that require almost 60ha of earthworks amount to 107 rugby fields of earth at 1m deep.

The $180 million proposed wind farm will be visible from Paeroa, the Hauraki Plains, Dickeys Flat and Waihi.

Kaimai Wind Farm director Glenn Starr was out and about in these townships for two days last week to meet with residents about the proposal.

Community Liaison Clare Bayly says there have been comments in support, and people appreciated the chance to meet in person with Mr Starr.

“The project has been investigated since 2005 but it’s been vague and out there in the future,” she says. “Anyone who does have concerns and would like to meet can contact us via our website.

“There is, in some instances, good grounds for sitting down and talking about it. For others, they are neither one way or another.”

The company says the Kaimai Ranges are unique in the upper North Island because of the required wind speed and proximity to a Transpower connection point at the southern boundary of the proposed location on private land.

When submissions closed, 57 were in support and 157 were opposed.

Waikato Regional Council submissions totalled 143, with 96 against and 42 in support of the proposal.

However the turbines will be in an area of cultural significance to local Maori and alongside an area of outstanding natural landscape, and within the Hauraki Ecological Corridor.

“I question why we would drop that level of industry right on top of the region’s most precious asset,” Mr Sorley says. “The Council can’t really have it both ways – on one hand say this is our most precious landscape, flora and fauna, with a mountain that has mana and tourism potential, and at the same time say ‘look at the beautiful industry we’ve created on top of it’.”

He is calling on the Hauraki District Council to put their decision on hold in light of a recent Government Report on the state of NZ’s Environment and grim outlook for threatened species.

The resource consent application process for a proposed windfarm near Paeroa is currently on hold while the applicant carries out informal pre-hearings with submitters.

The applicant Kaimai Wind Farm has also applied for direct referral to the Environment Court but will decide whether to proceed with this application after the pre-hearing meetings are completed. In this case the hearing would be held there and the decision would be made by the Environment Court without the involvement of Council appointed commissioners.

The resource consent application process for a proposed windfarm near Paeroa is currently on hold while the applicant carries out informal pre-hearings with submitters.
Council Communications Officer Teresa Ramsay says Kaimai Windfarm Ltd had asked Hauraki District Council to organise a number of formal pre-hearing meetings.

“Council sent out a letter to all submitters advising of this. However since then the applicant decided to offer informal one-on-one meetings to submitters, which are currently taking place.

“The process and timeline from here are still undecided but the resource consent application is expected to go to a hearing later this year.”

Mr Sorley says he is concerned that the Council has allowed the company to get as far given its sensitive ecological location.

“Don’t be fooled by the term ‘green energy’,” says Mr Sorley. “The carbon footprint to build this behemoth is massive. This type of industrialisation on the flanks of Mount Karangahake, and alongside conservation land in the narrowest part of a nationally important ecological corridor is the reason why many of our bird and bat species are under threat.”

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