A group of residents in south Eketāhuna are gritting their teeth and sharpening their pencils in preparation for the laborious task of submitting against Meridian’s proposed wind farm.
The development has been pitched for the foothills of Mt Munro and would see up to 20 wind turbines constructed, each up to 160m tall and operated on the site 5km below Eketāhuna.
Meridian’s resource consent application – which is over 1000 pages long – was lodged in May to Masterton District Council, Tararua District Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and Horizons Regional Council.
Should the application be granted, Meridian states the wind farm would operate within three privately owned properties that would continue operating as sheep and beef farms.
The project details estimate it would produce 300 gigawatt hours of energy per year, enough to supply over 40,000 houses.
The proposed site for the wind farm also hosts a neighbouring group of about 25 houses.
In one of them lives Chris Clarke, who chairs the Hastwell Protection Society.
Clarke has lived in his property for three years, but there are other residents who have been living at their properties for decades.
Members of the society have been meeting to discuss the complexities involved in the proposal, and Clarke said there is great concern about how the construction and operation of the development would impact their everyday lives.
“Meridian won’t look at the social impact of this. The impact on us is huge, a major impact on our wellness.”
Citing a range of disruptions to their quiet, rural lifestyle he believes would result from the proximity of the wind farm, Clarke said there needs to be clearer planning regulations.
Specifically, he said rules should establish minimum distances between proposed developments and established dwellings.
“We talk about green energy sources. One of the ethics of being green is to ensure people are part of that,” Clarke said.
“We’re not seeing any justice here.”
Clarke and the Hastwell Protection Society have previously voiced their discontent regarding Meridian’s consultation with those who live close to the development.
Clarke said he and his neighbours feel they have had to “fight hard to be heard”.
“This has been about stealth and obfuscation. When it comes to this community, we’ve been left in the dark,” Clarke said.
In response to feelings of unease brewing amid Mt Munro residents, Meridian head of renewable development Rebecca Knott has suggested that the Times-Age is not the appropriate place for debate.
“The purpose of the consenting process is so that these and other matters can be raised and responded to, rather than debated in the media,” Knott said.
“We encourage people to take up the opportunity to make a submission before the closing date.”
Clarke recognises that submitting is an important part of the process, but said he believes it is important for their community to be vocal about how they feel, and clear about the reasons why.
“The last thing I’d like to see is other communities go through this,” Clarke said.
“We’re not anti windfarms. We’re anti windfarms going through the heart of communities.”
The submission period closes on December 6, and the case will then be processed through the Environment Court.