Extra challenges to protect environment
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.’’