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Wind farm proposal process grinds on

The countdown on whether Meridian Energy will decide to lodge its Mount Munro windfarm proposal with the Environment Court has begun, while residents in the small community of Hastwell continue to express deep concern about the prospect of it going ahead.

Meridian has proposed to build 20 wind turbines 8km south of Eketāhuna that would generate up to 300 gigawatt hours of energy a year – enough to power about 42,000 homes.

Chris Clarke – the chair of the Mount Munro Protection Society [MMPS], which opposes the project – said the “stark reality” is that the proposal would result in big and imposing mechanical structures being erected less than 700 metres from the Hastwell community’s “doorstep”.

Clarke said the project would mean five years of construction, gross increases in traffic, environmental risk, noise pollution, flickering, increased risk to safety, dirt, dust, and negative impact on the community, schools, and businesses.

“And in the midst of this mess, where is our local elected MP?” Clarke asked, expressing frustration about how Wairarapa MP Mike Butterick had “waxed lyrical in his inaugural speech in Parliament about supporting and advocating for rural communities” but had been slow to respond to MMPS’s request for a meeting.

Clarke said the group initially contacted Butterick on February 7, with two follow-up emails about concerns pertaining to Meridian’s wind farm proposal and how it might be affected by the government’s new Fast-track Approvals Bill.

Clarke said he felt “fobbed off” that Butterick took over a month to respond and has yet to arrange a meeting.

In response to queries from the Times-Age, Butterick said he was waiting to contact MMPS until he had clarity about the fast-track process and its potential implications.

“I am fully aware of the community’s concerns in regard to proposed wind farms,” he said.

Butterick said he understood the councils involved were about to provide further information on the Mt Munro proposal.

“This will be a good point to meet with the society again and understand the implications of these recommendations for this community,” he said.

“I fully support renewable energy, but in terms of wind power, it does need to be the right windmill in the right place.”

Meridian Energy’s head of renewable development, Rebecca Knott, said the company does not intend to put the Mt Munro proposal through the process that would be enabled by the fast-track bill, which has received its first reading.

“We are continuing with the process we are currently in,” she said.

However, Knott said, Meridian is “planning to make a submission to the Select Committee considering the Fast-Track Bill in general.”

Knott said the four councils involved – Horizons Regional Council as the lead, Masterton District Council, Tararua District Council, and Greater Wellington Regional Council – were due to complete their s87F joint report yesterday [March 15].

“We will then have 15 working days to decide whether to lodge the process formally with the Environment Court.”

“We appreciate that there is still some way to go in this process, and we thank everyone in the community and beyond for their involvement in the process so far.

Meridian is of the view that it has undertaken sufficient community consultation and will take into consideration views by “the decision-maker as part of the hearing process.”

Previously, there have been 73 submissions made on the proposal. Three were neutral, seven were in support, and the remaining 63 were opposed.

Horizons Regional Council said the s87F report will contain information including the technical review of environmental effects, assessment of objectives and policies, other matters, and suggested consent conditions, to be provided to the Environment Court on the application.

Meridian “requested that the regional council allow the applications to be ‘directly referred’ to the Environment Court.”

“The direct referral process is a streamlined procedure under the Resource Management Act 1991, which allows a requiring authority to make a request to the Council that its notified applications be decided by the Environment Court, rather than the regional council.”

“The regional council granted the applicants request for direct referral on 1 November 2023.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. You can put solar panels floating on the dam, reduces water loss,and does not take up valuable land as solar people still not sure if can farm under them.

Comments are closed.

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