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Region heats up for solar projects

An application for a fast-track resource consent to develop a 148-hectare solar farm in Carterton has been referred to the Environmental Protection Authority [EPA] just days before the enabling legislation lapsed.

The site designated for the development proposed by UK-based Harmony Energy spans 218 hectares at 271 Perrys Rd, 510 Hughes Line, and 303 East Taratahi Rd, Carterton.

The project description includes the construction and operation of a solar farm, installation of 32 medium voltage power stations, two substations, a transformer, and a transmission line.

The works would also establish underground electricity cables and private accessways for vehicles and carry out road upgrades, landscaping, and planting.

The solar farm is proposed to include roughly 201,500 photovoltaic panels.

An estimated 202-303 jobs over a 12-18 month construction period would be created, and roughly five ongoing jobs after completion.

Harmony Energy is the latest organisation to show interest in establishing solar power developments in Wairarapa.

It joins Far North Solar Farm Ltd, which currently has a resource consent application for a 235-ha solar farm in Greytown going through a submission process with South Wairarapa District Council, and Helios Energy, which has made public a proposal for a 190ha solar farm along Bidwills Cutting Rd, Kemptons Line, and SH2 but has yet to make an application. The Harmony Energy application was initially submitted to the Ministry for the Environment [MFE] as a referred project within the Covid-19 Recovery [Fast-track Consenting] Act 2020, seeking ministerial approval.

The EPA’s fast-track consenting process was designed in 2020 to provide a shorter consenting process for projects likely to boost employment and economic recovery after pandemic-related setbacks.

Although the act was repealed on 8 July this year, applications that received an Order in Council before that date can still go through the fast-track process.

As part of the fast-track consent process, the application was referred to an EPA consenting panel by the Minister for the Environment David Parker through an Order in Council on 9 June.

Reasons cited by MFE for this decision included employment and infrastructure generation, contribution to New Zealand’s climate change mitigation, and a speedier consent process than would otherwise be faced under the standard Resource Management Act.

A spokesperson for the EPA confirmed that Harmony Energy has not yet officially lodged the application for the next stage of the process.

“At this stage, we don’t have any further information about the project or its associated timeframes or the expert consenting panel, as an application has not yet been lodged with us.”

The applicant has six months to lodge an application, the spokesperson said.

If the application is formally lodged, it will be assessed by an expert consenting panel that has similar powers to consenting authorities like councils.

The spokesperson said there is no requirement for the expert consulting panel to hold a hearing for the application.

“The panel will decide if a hearing is required,”
the spokesperson said.

The Act states that expert consenting panels must not give public or limited notification about a consent application or notice of requirement.

However, panels “must also invite written comments on the application from persons or groups listed in the Act”.

A spokesperson for Carterton District Council confirmed it was approached for comment during the referral process.

“We will have further opportunity to provide comments once or if the application gets formally lodged.”

A spokesperson from Greater Wellington Regional Council said it hadn’t received a request for comment.

Last year, Harmony Energy received approval from the EPA to build a 147-megawatt solar farm on a 260-hectare site in the Waikato region.

The developer has two other solar projects in Marton and Ōpunake awaiting lodgement with the EPA.

1 COMMENT

  1. Why good farm land that feeds people sorry makes no sense. What’s wrong with the desert road it’s not used for any food production 🤔?.

Comments are closed.

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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