A $395 million wind farm north of Napier will create 260 jobs, but will go ahead without the full support of local iwi.
Meridian Energy plans to begin construction of the Harapaki Wind Farm later this year.
No start date has been revealed.
Local iwi had opposed the construction of the wind farm on grounds that included concerns it was on land that included culturally significant sites.
However, the iwi has chosen to take a damage control approach and work with Meridian, after realising it could invest significant resources fighting the farm, with no guarantee of the outcome.
The Harapaki Wind Farm project emerged from two separate proposals for the Maungaharuru Range project, 35km northwest of Napier and was first mooted more than 15 years ago.
It will feature 41 turbines generating 176 MW of renewable energy – enough to power more than 70,000 average households.
The project is expected to take three years to complete, creating 260 new jobs.
Meridian Energy chief executive Neal Barclay said the decision to commence construction now was a sign of confidence that clean energy infrastructure can deliver strong economic benefits.
“Renewable generation is an engine of economic growth for New Zealand.
“There’s a massive clean energy transformation underway in the New Zealand economy and now is the time to tackle climate action to support Aotearoa accelerate its transition away from fossil fuels.”
While the project is already consented with construction work set to begin later this year, Shane Taurima, chair of the Maungaharuru-Tangitū Trust which represents iwi in the area where the wind farm will be built, expressed his opposition to the project.
He said the Trust was approached by Meridian in 2018 to discuss it’s development, where it was “made it clear that our hapū were opposed to the wind farm
and explored options to challenge the consents”.
However, the Trust ultimately decided not to go down the legal route to challenge the consent and instead began working with Meridian to mitigate potential harm.
“While we knew the wind farm development would impact the mauri of our maunga tapu and our hapū, we would have spent a lot of resources, time and effort with no realistic prospect of success.”
The Trust had since taken a proactive approach to protect its wāhi taonga (sites of significance), which include Maungaharuru, by listing them with the Hastings District Plan so than potential developers must first consult them.
“It has taken a lot of work over the last 6 years, including appeals to the Environment Court and the High Court, to have dozens of our sites included in the District Plan.”
Barclay said Meridian Energy has five wind farms in operation around New Zealand and there are hopes the Harapaki Wind Farm will be its most sustainable yet.
He said it would use advanced wind generation technology from Europe to set new benchmarks for turbine efficiency and sustainable construction practices.
Design changes have also reduced the amount of concrete and steel needed for the build which will help reduce the overall carbon footprint of the project by 30 per cent.
“Our vision is for Harapaki to be New Zealand’s most sustainable wind farm and one that delivers transformative economic growth and advances our goals for climate action,” he said.
Barclay said the country would need to build more grid-scale wind generation each year to meet its emissions targets and growing demand as the country moves from fossil fuels to clean energy.
Meanwhile, Taurima said the iwi was “awaiting a decision of the Environment Court to protect a further eight sites including sites on Maungaharuru such as Tītī-a-Ōkura”.
Taurima said the Trust was now in a better position to respond to resource consent applications.
He remained of the view that wind farms adversely impact the cultural values of our maunga tapu.