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Windfarm rustles feathers in Eketāhuna

Despite a modest amount of supporters for its wind farm proposal on Eketāhuna’s Mt Munro, Meridian is facing an onslaught of backlash from Hastwell residents vehemently opposed to having windmills on their doorstep.

This is evident from the 73 submissions received on the project, for which the resource consent application has been directly referred to the Environment Court by the four councils involved.

Out of the 73 submissions received, three were neutral, seven were in support, and the remaining 63 were opposing the proposal.

Those supporting the proposal – including Eketāhuna Golf Club and the New Zealand Wind Association – spoke of supporting energy security and commercial benefits the wind farm would bring to the region.

Several submitters said they felt like Meridian had completed sufficient community consultation on the project and that any points of concern could be correctly mitigated.

New Zealand Wind Energy Association spoke in favour of Meridian, calling it an “experienced and highly regarded developer”, noting that it is already behind several other wind farms in New Zealand.

The association also said that New Zealand needs this project to go ahead to meet national renewable energy targets.

But the majority of the 63 submissions opposing the proposal were scathing in tone.

Many cited concerns about road and traffic safety issues during the construction period, the level of vehicles and heavy trucks travelling down local roads, and the impact this would have on road quality.

This included the Mauriceville School Board of Trustees, who said the construction would cause increased traffic activity on Opaki Kaiparoro Rd, impacting student and whānau safety.

Another common theme between submitters opposing the project was that granting the development would set a precedent for the rest of New Zealand regarding these types of large-scale industrial developments being permitted so close to residential dwellings.

Many referenced Palmerston North’s district plan regulations of a 1.5km distance between houses and wind turbines, raising that should Meridian’s project proceed, there would be over 20 dwellings within 1.5km and several within 700 metres.

Many submissions voiced concern about how the wind farm could impact neighbouring property values, with one submitter – a local real estate consultant – mentioning two property transactions they had been involved with now “negatively affected by this project”.

“Both purchasers bought their lifestyle block of land in this area in consideration of the outstanding quiet and peaceful rural lifestyle values clearly evident at the time,” they wrote.

“The prices paid for each section reflected this beautiful rural lifestyle.

“However, since this project has now been made public and may well progress through to construction and operation, property values in the whole Hastwell area are inevitably likely to be constrained, given the negative aspects of a major wind farm on Mt Munro, resulting in a lower market demand.”

One submitter said, “Having a wind farm and its potential effects forced upon your family and your home is truly abhorrent”.

Submissions raised a raft of concerns surrounding noise, traffic, roading infrastructure, pollution, local ecology, water quality, visual impact, and insufficient information provided.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand also made a submission, seeking further clarity over the details of water supply for firefighting purposes, access for emergency vehicles and the development of an emergency response plan.

Many submitters pleaded that the quiet, rural lifestyle they signed up for would be devastated by ongoing construction noise and activity, with one submitter writing that the “stress from this whole nightmare had been colossal”.

“The mental and physical strain on the Hastwell community has been huge,” the submitter wrote.

“It has divided our wonderful community here in Hastwell as well as Eketāhuna.”

When approached about the concerns raised by submitters, Meridian declined to comment.

A spokesperson for the Environmental Court said that the court was waiting on confirmation from Meridian that the direct referral was to be pursued.

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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