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Risk of fire watered down

Fire and Emergency New Zealand [Fenz] have quashed local concerns in Greytown about fire risk and mitigation of a proposed solar development, specifically the use of chemical retardants polluting land and groundwater.

The prospect of a 235-hectare solar farm to be developed in Greytown, with other solar developers indicating interest in the region too – has prompted local residents to share feelings of unease.

In an effort to reassure residents, a spokesperson from Fenz said solar farms hold no major concerns in terms of overall fire risk associated with Far North Solar Farm Limited’s proposed development.

“The operator has engaged early with us, has been able to mitigate risk early and has taken on board our suggestions, including the in the design of the site to help mitigate fire risk.”

Solar farm developments are unique. The spokesperson said Fenz treated each one on a case-by-case basis.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach,” they said.

“We develop fire management plans alongside the operator to understand what needs to be protected and how best to mitigate fire risk.”

The spokesperson said Fenz protocol for fighting a fire at a solar farm facility was developed with the operator as part of an Agency Action Plan.

“In this case, these discussions with the operator have started early at the consent stage to ensure that any mitigation can be built into the design of the facility.”

This included considering site parameters, water supply, water management, site access, hardstand areas, safety shutdowns and neighbouring properties.

Should a fire occur in the proposed development, there would be no chemical-based retardants used to put it out.

“The design of the site means that if fire did start firefighters would work to contain the fire within its quadrant and prevent it from spreading.

“Each quadrant has a fire break around all four sides, so if the fire got into the grass under the panels it would not spread to the next quadrant.

“This fire spread prevention would be aided by the use of water.”

Staying up to date with new technologies from working groups in New Zealand and Australia would help Fenz learn and apply new knowledge.

It was announced this week that the outcome of this development will be determined in due course by the Environment Court.

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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