Ex­tra chal­lenges to pro­tect en­vi­ron­ment

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - By KRIS DANDO

A ground-break­ing district plan change set­ting rules on wind farms is fi­nally in ef­fect for Porirua, but don’t ex­pect to see tur­bines spin­ning above Pau­ata­hanui any time soon.

Porirua City Coun­cil’s district plan re­view sub­com­mit­tee met be­hind closed doors on June 16 and re­ceived an up­date on En­vi­ron­ment Court ap­peals to the plan change from Mighty River Power and the New Zealand Wind En­ergy As­so­ci­a­tion. They ob­jected to a rule that tur­bines must be at least 700 me­tres from a prop­erty’s boundary line. This has been be­fore the court for more than a year.

Kapi-Mana News un­der­stands the ap­peals are on hold, and the ap­pel­lants un­likely to with­draw since it would al­low the 700m rule to be in­cluded in the district plan.

But coun­cil­lors re­ported that Plan Change 7, as a reg­u­la­tory frame­work for the fu­ture, was now in place.

‘‘Be­cause of legal priv­i­lege, I ob­vi­ously can’t tell you what was dis­cussed but they [the ap­peals] will not af­fect the plan change,’’ said coun­cil­lor Liz Kelly, who was on the hear­ings panel for pub­lic sub­mis­sions in 2009.

‘‘This is a very sig­nif­i­cant piece of work be­cause it in­flu­ences a strate­gic look at our land­scape and har­bour.

‘‘It’s what re­source con­sents [for wind farms and sim­i­lar ac­tiv­i­ties] will be mea­sured against and shows that this coun­cil have been proac­tive in pro­tect­ing our en­vi­ron­ment. We’re not stop­ping de­vel­op­ments but putting clear guide­lines in place that have to be met.’’

An­other mem­ber of the hear­ings panel, coun­cil­lor Tim Shep­pard, said the plan change was a ‘‘ sen­si­ble bal­ance’’.

‘‘We’re not say­ing ‘ no’ to wind farms, but there will cer­tainly be ex­tra chal­lenges to over­come.’’

Wind farm con­trac­tor RES won a ten­der from Greater Welling­ton Re­gional Coun­cil to put 50 tur­bines, each 130 me­tres high, on a com­bi­na­tion of GWRC and pri­vate land be­hind Pau­ata­hanui in 2006. The bud­get was $50 mil­lion. But pub­lic meet­ings, coun­cil hear­ings, fur­ther in­for­ma­tion re­quested by PCC on noise and vi­bra­tions, is­sues around ac­cess and the En­vi­ron­ment Court ap­peals have seen that pro­ject grind to a halt. GWRC de­cided in 2009 that no tur­bines would be erected in Battle Hill For­est Park.

RES, an English-based com­pany, used to have an of­fice in Welling­ton, but Kapi-Mana News un­der­stands it no longer has a pres­ence in New Zealand. Their web­site, how­ever, still has Puke­tiro listed, but un­der ‘‘timetable’’, pub­lic meet­ings in Whitby in 2007 are the most cur­rent in­for­ma­tion.

GWRC’s util­i­ties and ser­vices de­vel­op­ment man­ager Tony Shaw said they still have a ‘‘live’’ con­tract with RES and are ‘‘wait­ing for a re­sponse’’. He un­der­stood RES may have been af­fected by the global eco­nomic down­turn and there are prob­a­bly ‘‘is­sues’’ to be over­come.

‘‘When or if they want to pro­ceed, they will have to ap­ply for var­i­ous con­sents.

‘‘At this stage there is no timetable, but we do ex­pect to hear from them soon.’’

Op­po­si­tion group Pau­ata­hanui Fu­tures has heard noth­ing on Puke­tiro for some time, and doesn’t ex­pect to in the near fu­ture. Spokesper­son Nicky Chap­man said con­sents, eco­log­i­cal stud­ies and fur­ther con­sul­ta­tion would tie up Puke­tiro for years if RES or an­other com­pany re­vived the pro­ject.

‘‘We’ve been sitting very qui­etly. The longer it goes on, the more un­likely it [Puke­tiro] looks.’’

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