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Tension simmers over stolen signs

An Eketāhuna resident feels disgruntled after a raft of his signs opposing Meridian Energy’s wind farm proposal on Mt Munro continue to disappear.

If consent for the proposal is granted, 20 wind turbines would be constructed 8km south of Eketāhuna, generating up to 300 gigawatt hours of energy annually – enough to power 42,000 homes.

The Times-Age first reported on the theft of two signs opposing the proposal in September.

The first sign was “smashed off” and taken, Mount Munro Protection Society [MMPS] member Robin Oliver said, after he and a neighbour had erected signs on Opaki-Kaiparoro Rd protesting the proposed wind farm location.

He said the second sign was removed within 10 minutes, but a third sign – which included a note addressed to the thief warning that police had advised Oliver it was against the law to remove it – remained undisturbed for five months.

However, the problem reared its head again recently after the energy company lodged papers with the Environment Court on March 19.

In the past month, about six signs have been removed from various locations across the township.

One sign has been removed from the main highway around Pūkaha, Oliver said, while two at the edge of Eketāhuna have disappeared, and several laminated small signs have been removed from various other places.

“People around here, all of us are getting pretty angry about it,” he said.

“It’s cost us around 600 bucks so far. If it keeps happening, we just really can’t afford to keep doing it. We are only a very poor society.”

Oliver said he felt his voice has been diminished not only by Meridian but also by the removal “campaign” against his signage.

He plans to find somewhere else to put them back up and doesn’t understand the strong reaction against them. “The signs themselves don’t attack anybody,” he said.

“They just say, ‘Right energy, wrong place,’ while others are just information signs.

“But it seems to be really upsetting them for some reason.”

Mt Munro Society chair Chris Clarke confirmed that the damaging and removal of protest signs has been an ongoing problem.

Meridian generation general manager Guy Waipara told the Times-Age the company appreciates the range of views held throughout the Eketahuna community about the benefits of the Mt Munro wind farm proposal, noting that the removal of signage was discussed at a recent meeting and “Meridian confirmed that we had no role or interest in removing the signs”.

“The upcoming hearing in the Environment Court will provide an opportunity for everyone to express their views on the project,” Waipara said.

“We believe the Mt Munro wind farm offers tremendous benefits to the local community and wider region, as it does to the electricity system and New Zealand economy.”

A police spokesperson has confirmed that “police are speaking with the victim who has had their signs continuously removed in the Eketāhuna area.

“A member of the public has nominated a suspect,” the spokesperson said.

Enquiries are ongoing.


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