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Sped-up solar proposal’s progress

After being referred for processing under fast-track legislation six months ago, an application has officially been lodged with the Environmental Protection Authority [EPA] for a 218-hectare solar farm in Carterton.

UK-based developer Harmony Energy lodged the resource consent application to the EPA in December.

The area intended for the solar farm lies along Hughes Line, Perrys Rd and East Taratahi Rd in Carterton and although the site itself is 218 hectares, the area that will be within the solar farm security fence is about 156 hectares.

The project involves the installation of 240,000 solar panels, which will be mounted on a single-axis tracker system that allow the panels to follow the sun’s path from east to west.

Construction of 36 medium voltage power stations, one substation building, one power transformer, one container-like structure to house spare parts, and an operation and maintenance building will also be required.

In its assessment of environmental effects, Harmony Energy said there would be provisions made for ecological restoration and occasional educational visits from school children, and community and iwi groups.

It said there had been ongoing engagement with local iwi and provided documentation signed by Rangitāne o Wairarapa and Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa stating no objections to the proposal.

Other groups involved in consultation so far include Greater Wellington Regional Council, Carterton District Council, adjoining properties, Transpower, and the Department of Conservation.

The fast-track consenting process was enabled in 2020 to boost the timeline for projects that would help mitigate the employment and economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The act was repealed in July last year, but projects referred by the Minister for the Environment [at the time David Parker] before the act ended – including this solar farm project – are still able to go through the process.

A spokesperson for the EPA said that the panel for assessing this proposal would be appointed by the panel convenor, Judge Laurie Newhook, who was Chief Environment Court Judge until 2020.

Under the act, there is no public or limited notification process.

However, the panel must invite comments on the application from persons or groups listed in the act, including relevant parties and any other person the panel considers appropriate.

The spokesperson could not provide an indication of when a panel would be appointed.

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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