Residents say south Auckland solar farm will ruin 'rural outlook'

10:08 pm on 22 February 2024

By Torika Tokalau, Local Democracy Reporter

Solar farm

New Zealand currently has five solar farms, including the Kapuni solar power plant. Photo: Supplied / LDR

Residents of a quiet rural south Auckland community say they are devastated a solar farm has been given the green light for development without any public consultation.

Kenny Ardmore Limited (KAL) plans to build and operate a solar farm with 18,000 solar panels, on 13 hectares of land at Ardmore, south Auckland.

In applying for resource consent, KAL chose to proceed without public notification, which was not mandatory for its application.

However, residents Allan Bell and Chris Wise said locals had a lot to say about the development, and wished they had had a chance to have their views heard.

Wise, who lives directly opposite the site, said he was not consulted.

"We are not against solar farms or renewable energy but in this case we are against the location they have chosen to put the solar farm," Wise said.

"Many of the owners have been in this location for over 30 years and chose to reside here because of the beautiful rural outlook which will now be destroyed."

Ardmore resident Chris Wise

Ardmore resident Chris Wise beside the site of the solar farm. He lives directly opposite and claims he wasn't consulted. Photo: Supplied / LDR

Bell said they first found out about the proposed development through a news article in a community paper, with a circulation "that didn't reach all residents".

Bell said after they found out, they collected more than 300 signatures from residents, petitioning against the lack of transparency.

He said the development would affect 13 families and parents of a 400-pupil school, all within 100 metres of the site.

Residents were also concerned with traffic from the development and the dramatic impact to property values, he said.

"[We] are flabbergasted that this development could go ahead in this way and not be consulted."

Council approved the resource consent for the solar farm on 13 February, with work expected to begin in June or July.

Once built, it would generate 17,488 megawatts of power from 3m-long fixed solar panels, enough to supply electricity to 2400 houses in the area.

'Doing something for the planet'

KAL director Ben Kenny said they chose to apply for a non-notified resource consent after receiving advice from consultants.

He said they cared about the residents' view, and hoped the groundwork proved how serious they were in mitigating issues.

"People have this preconception of what we're doing and that we're bad people, but I'm not a bad person, I'm a good person.

"I'm doing something for the planet, I'm trying to help New Zealand reach [its] renewable energy goals, I'm trying to mitigate anything as best I can.

"People won't know that until they come and sit down with us and see the lengths we're going to."

Kenny said he was open to sitting down with locals to talk about the project.

"I've realised some of the locals are upset but I hope they can see the effort we're going to," Kenny said.

Auckland Council manager resource consents south James Dowding said the final decision was made by an independent commissioner.

"In this instance, the application underwent a detailed and thorough notification assessment, and council planners provided the commissioner with quality information and assessments so they could make an informed decision," Dowding said.

"The commissioner found any adverse effects to people, traffic and the environment to be less than minor, and so granted the application without the need for notification."

Dowding said before submitting a resource consent application, an applicant could choose to engage with local residents.

"However, there is no legal requirement to do so."

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.