Turitea wind farm owner Mercury has struck a wall of opposition against its plans to move about 300 trucks a day, up and down two steep, narrow and winding Palmerston North roads.
Mercury has applied to the Palmerston North City Council for changes to the conditions of its resource consent to carry more construction traffic on Kahuterawa Rd and Greens Rd to the southern section of the wind farm.
But local residents have made 29 submissions that the proposals are just not safe.
Even the city council itself is opposing the changes.
In light of the opposition, Mercury has asked the city council to refer the matter directly to the Environment Court for “an authoritative and independent” decision.
It wants the changes so it can shortcut having to use the longer northern approach through the completed first stage of the wind farm, and along a road at the back of the Turitea Reserve that needs upgrading.
Greens Rd residents Kaydee and Anton Zabelin, Simon and Bronwyn Ferry, and Nick Moody said their restricted access road was wholly unsuitable for use as a construction route for heavy vehicles.
They said the two roads were already collapsing under the pressure of increased logging activity.
Allowing more heavy traffic would make them highly unsafe given the geography, the instability and steepness of the terrain.
Slips and damaged road edges regularly made the roads too narrow for opposing vehicles to pass safely.
The roads were more frequently used by cyclists and other recreational users than was envisaged when resource consents were issued more than a decade ago, when caps on traffic movements were first put in place.
They were worried about the safety of all road users if heavy traffic volumes were allowed to grow.
Kahuterawa Rd residents Avon and Simon Lookmire said the idea of 150 heavy trucks a day navigating the narrow road with frequent blind corners was “terrifying”.
It would create the very real likelihood of serious crashes and injuries.
“We are in favour of the wind farm project as a whole, but we do not believe that its speedy completion is worth endangering lives for.”
The city council, as the road controlling authority, has made a submission that the changes should not be allowed.
It said Mercury had not adequately considered and explained how it would deal with the adverse effects of increased vehicle movements
The increase from 5800 truck movements during the construction period to a total of 22,000 was significant, and did not take into account the increased residential and recreational use of the roads in the last decade.
It said if the consent conditions were to be changed, the applicant needed to repeat road condition surveys and carry out any works needed to improve safety.
The city council’s decision on whether to support the applications going straight to the Environment Court is expected any day now.
Mercury has cancelled its routine community liaison group meeting on February 9 because of Covid-19 red traffic light restrictions.
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