17 May 2016

Windfarm a political statement, opponent says

7:04 pm on 17 May 2016

A critic of the country's first proposed community windfarm says it's a political statement at the community's expense.

View south across Blueskin Bay from near the proposed wind farm site, with the settlement of Doctors Point scattered along the inlet's southern shoreline.

View south across Blueskin Bay from near the proposed wind farm site, with the settlement of Doctors Point scattered along the inlet's southern shoreline. Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

The $6 million project would put three wind turbines on Porteous Hill north of Dunedin to generate enough power for all of the area's 1000 homes.

A three day hearing for the Blueskin Energy project began today in Dunedin.

Graeme Bennett

Graeme Bennett speaks at the hearing Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

After 10 years of debate, the project has reached its most critical stage as it seeks resource consent.

The 140 written submissions received for the resource consent process were evenly divided for and against.

And today, the small public gallery at the hearing was packed with 20 Blueskin locals.

A major landowner at nearby Doctor's Point, Graeme Bennett, said the claimed benefits of the plan did not stack up.

It seemed like a political statement, he said, and no one had the right to make a political statement that was detrimental to the rest of the community.

Mr Bennett said the plan did not have widespread community support as claimed.

Denis Albert, who is a forester, told the hearing commissioner the South Island does not need any more power, which is already all renewable.

He said the project was frivolous and being driven by a fringe group living in a bubble, and without widespread support.

Mr Albert said he was standing up to be counted against the project, because it would become a long-term burden.

Project manager Scott Willis told the hearing today that when complete, the project would also produce about $100,000 a year for the community to spend on other climate change initiatives.

Most of the day was being taken up with the presentation of expert evidence in support of the project.

The project's lawyer, Bridget Irving, told the hearing the plan was unique for a windfarm and should be held up as an example to other communities.

"The proposal generates a number of positive effects that are not typically present in an application for a wind farm.

"It is certainly my hope that this proposal will be seen as an exemplar for other communities to face the challenge that climate change presents."

Ms Irving said the potential for bird-strike and negative effects on views and noise for nearby few homes could be fixed or reduced through conditions on the project.

Several dozen submitters had said they were worried about birds striking the turbines.

But ecologist John Craig told the hearing the data from other New Zealand windfarms showed only a few introduced birds like magpies might be killed over a 30 year period, and it would not affect rare native birds.

Dr Craig said the wind-farm's effects on birds would be absolutely minor compared with pest animal kills, and there was no point calling for further studies to prove it.

The hearing continues.

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