A Taranaki iwi is taking its opposition to the proposed construction of four massive wind turbines in its rohe to the High Court.
Te Korowai o Ngāruahine Trust has, along with Greenpeace, filed notice to appeal the December 2021 decision of an independent expert panel to grant resource consent enabling a renewable wind energy facility, associated with a $70 million green hydrogen project, to be set up in South Taranaki.
Hiringa Energy Limited and Ballance Agri-Nutrients Limited applied under a new fast-tracked consenting process to build four, 206-metre tall wind turbines on Kokiri Rd farmland, about five kilometres north east of Manaia.
The farmland is owned by Māori agri-business Parininihi ki Waitotara.
The expert panel granted the consent, with conditions, on December 1 last year, giving the project the green light.
It was hoped construction would be under way in earnest by September to instal the turbines, ahead of generation beginning next year.
About 40 full-time jobs would be created across the construction period.
However, the High Court action will likely cause delays.
The hearing is set down for two days and begins in Wellington on May 16.
Once built, the turbines would be the tallest in Aotearoa.
The electricity they generate would be transferred to Ballance Agri-Nutrients’ ammonia-urea manufacturing plant at Palmer Rd to produce “green” hydrogen from water.
Initially, all the hydrogen will be used in the production of ammonia and green urea for fertiliser, but over five years this will transition to fuel for the transport sector.
However, the turbines’ visual impact on the landscape was among a series of concerns raised by Te Korowai o Ngāruahine.
In its initial submission, prior to the panel reaching its decision, the trust’s Dion Luke took issue with the proposed location for the turbines and how this would impact on iwi relationships with Taranaki Maunga, who is their ancestor.
He said it had become apparent through the consultation phase that no alternative location had been canvassed, and while there had been attempts to address iwi concerns, little had changed.
During consultation, an offer had been made to Te Korowai o Ngāruahine to have an investment stake in the initiative, but Luke said this would be declined as there was no clear consensus from hapū regarding the project.
When contacted about the upcoming appeal, Te Korowai o Ngāruahine chief executive Te Aorangi Dillon declined to comment at this stage.
The proposal was first lodged under the Government’s Covid-19 Recovery (Fast-Track Consenting) Act 2020, which has the aim of speeding up the consent process for projects which create work and help boost the economy.
It is understood the upcoming appeal would be among the first heard by the courts in connection with this legislation.
However, appeals on these matters can only be made on questions of law.
It is understood the appellants will argue errors were made at several points in the process, including how the issue of consultation with affected iwi and hapū was considered by the panel.
In a joint statement, Ballance Agri-Nutrients and Hiringa Energy said they were disappointed that the construction of the turbines had been delayed due to the appeal against provisional consent.
“The turbines are a critical component of the organisations’ joint green hydrogen project at Kapuni. The project’s ultimate goal is to accelerate New Zealand’s transition to a zero emission, hydrogen-based heavy-transport network.
“Green hydrogen will make a significant contribution towards our national Net Zero by 2050 emissions targets.
“With a total output capacity of 24.8MW, the turbines are expected to generate the renewable electricity required to enable industrial-scale production of green hydrogen via the project’s electrolyser plant.
“The location and scale of the project is necessary to be able to compete with and displace fossil fuels.
“We acknowledge that some hapū do not support the project and have appealed the consent; however, we are very grateful for the productive partnership we have with hapū located closest to the project.”
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