Residents on the Tararua side of the Pahīatua Track are facing the prospect of living between two wind farms.
To the west, their properties are overshadowed by Mercury’s Turitea North turbines standing up to 125 metres tall above the Tararua ridgeline about 2km away.
And now, Yinson Renewables and project managers Aurecon are proposing putting up 11 even taller turbines closer to their homes.
Software engineer Gareth Bestow, who lives on Makomako Rd, the main route from Palmerston North to Pahīatua, is rallying neighbours to prepare to oppose the plan.
Bestow said he did not know, and no-one told him, not even the Tararua District Plan, that the property he bought in 2013 was next to the fully-consented Turitea wind farm that was yet to be built.
And he could not believe he could now be effectively living in the middle of a wind farm.
Bestow’s first inkling that another wind farm was planned was in a letter from Yinson Renewables, a subsidiary of Malaysia-based international energy company Yinson, that wind monitoring equipment would soon be installed.
There followed a community drop-in session in October attended by about 80 people, which Bestow said paid only lip-service to community engagement about the turbines.
“How do we give feedback when they won’t tell me where they are, how big they are, and how much noise they will make?”
He said details were sketchy, with no information about the size and type of turbines, and a map that was hard to interpret.
Mapping is one of the things Bestow enjoys, and he has done his best to measure the distances between turbines and homes – the shortest distance being about 800m.
“All of this would not get consent in Palmerston North.”
Palmerston North’s District Plan includes rules providing for a 1.5km setback between turbines and dwellings.
Bestow was also concerned about how noise would be measured given the part of proposed wind farm would be within the noise contours for the Turitea wind farm.
“We will get all this noise on top of what we already get.”
Bestow said having moved to New Zealand from the United States, he would prefer to see wind turbines over smoke stacks and nuclear chimneys.
“But this community is already paying a price for green energy.
“To think you can construct larger turbines, twice as close, inside the existing noise footprint of an existing wind farm – it’s stunning that you could even contemplate doing this.”
Tararua District Council planning services team leader Aimee Charmley confirmed there was no setback rule in Tararua.
She said there had been an early planning pre-application meeting with Aurecon, and the council was expecting consent applications to be lodged in April.
Bestow said his concern was to make sure residents were well-informed about the plans now, so they had enough time to absorb and respond, and he had shared what he had gleaned at a recent community meeting.
He said once applications were lodged, people would have only 30 days to prepare and file submissions.
“People would be scrambling once the clock starts ticking.”
A Yinson Renewables spokesperson said the company was redesigning the proposed wind farm and potential transmission lines, taking community feedback about potential noise and visual effects into account.
Those redesigned plans, which could also be influenced by detailed assessments that were under way, would be shared with the community first.
“We understand the community is concerned and that we are one of several wind farms in the area.
“We are listening closely and want to achieve an outcome that is acceptable to everyone.”
Mercury portfolio general manager Phil Gibson said the Turitea wind farm was fully compliant with its consent conditions, and he could not comment on the effects of the Makomako development.
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