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Land access delaying Stewart Island wind turbines

A multi-million dollar renewable energy project on Stewart Island/Rakiura is facing delays because of land access issues.

Building a pair of turbines hav been proposed at either the island’s airport or Mamaku Point, but now council staff are looking for a potential third option.

Now-departed Southland District Council chief executive Steve Ruru flagged land access issues as early as December last year.

The council has a funding agreement with the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment for the $3.2 million project.

The island currently uses diesel generators for about 400 residents.

In March, council committee members contracted consultants Roaring 40s Wind Power for the wind turbines project.

A report by council commercial infrastructure manger Ashby Brown in March says that “pre-development phase” could cost $490,000, and the Provincial Growth Fund will provide $530,000 in stages.

However, a report presented to the Stewart Island/Rakiura Community Board on Monday by executive assistance Carolyn Davies says the project was now off-track because of land access issues.

Brown says the land council wants access to at Mamaku Point is privately owned, and the land near the airport is a mix of private and public land near

The current delays have no bearing on the amount of turbines to be built and are not because of any one site or landowner, he says.

“The timeframe [for a resolution] is highly dependent on the success of engagement with those landowners, so it’s not possible to predict when a resolution will be reached.”

Of the $530,000 from the PGF, $37,000 has been spent so far on design, supporting landowner discussions, planning, and consideration and analysis of viability of a third turbine site, Brown says.

Issues accessing the land were flagged by Ruru in December 2019, who said at the time there had been landowner and other stakeholder opposition to the proposal.

Wind generation could reduce the use of diesel by up to 40 per cent, he said.

Stewart Island/Rakiura councillor Bruce Ford supported the turbines but said saving about $160,000 a year on diesel had to be weighed against the $3m project and maintenance costs.

However, there was a lot of support on the island for renewable energy, he said.

The development stage of the project had $2.7 million allocated to it.