4 Oct 2010

Windfarm opponents fear 10 years of uncertainty

10:31 pm on 4 October 2010

The lawyer representing opponents of a windfarm southeast of Dannevirke has challenged Contact Energy over the timeframe of the consents it's seeking.

The Envionment Court in Hastings is considering an appeal by the company over a decision by three commissioners to decline permission for a 65-turbine wind farm on the Puketoi range.

Contact's lawyer, Matthew Casey, says that since the decision the company has significantly refined the project, removing seven turbines and eliminating most adverse effects.

As a result of those changes, he says, both the Tararua and Manawatu-Whanganui councils now support the project, subject to a number of conditions.

Mr Casey says the $400 million project is a key part of a $2 billion renewable energy programme but admits that if the appeal is successful it could be up to 10 years before construction begins.

Some adverse effects acknowledged

Mathew McClelland, who represents opponents, says that means an uncertain future for local farmers, and calls into question how important the windfarm really is.

Mr Casey says while there will inevitably be some adverse affects from the windfarm, they're outweighed by the significant positive benefits, both regional and national.

The Waitahora-Puketoi Guardian Society, which opposes the project, has indicated its lawyer will cross-examine most of Contact Energy's 23 expert witnesses.