imbyism; there’s a lot of it about. We all do it, yet we all happily accept goods and services as long as their downsides happen somewhere else. For instance, we all drive around lugging a lead-acid battery with us, yet how many of us would volunteer to live near a battery recycling plant? I wouldn’t, yet I’d be aghast to learn that they weren’t being recycled. We’re a funny old lot.
Some years ago, we went through a Nimby episode ourselves. We were living on a narrow, footpath-less, dead-end road in a small village 20km north of Dunedin. Joggle down our front steps, across the road and we were on the river bank you see pictured at left. It was Wind in the Willows stuff, with Ratty and Mole just around the next bend for sure.
It was also heaven: long summer evenings, kids playing upstream and down, sausages cooking (a steel plate and two concrete blocks, no fancy barbeque required), sunsets, and just the sound of the river burbling.
Two hundred metres along the road you entered the walk to New Zealand’s tallest tree, a Eucalyptus regnans. It was unremarkable in itself but a great wee walk, bordered either side by plantings put in by the local school children. This was paradise to us, at the time.
Then came a proposal for what would become the Orokonui Ecosanctuary, the concept of which we heartily approved. Initial thoughts were that the site would be accessed along our road, tour buses and all. Help! Kids – 12 of them in our short stretch of road – and tourist traffic and no footpaths! And insult of insults, ‘our’ walk to the tallest tree would be fenced off.
As it turned out, we lost the tree walk, but the public ecosanctuary access and all the traffic went elsewhere. We shifted to a new block partially because of that experience. Later, the village put in a river-side walkway, transecting that
Our latest challenge is a wind farm proposal and it’s in our backyard. We won’t see the towers – only just – from our block and I don’t know yet if we’ll hear them, but it has forced us to do some serious thinking. It is an unusual proposal in that it is being put forward by the local Blueskin Resilient Communities Trust using a vehicle called Blueskin Energy Ltd.
Immediately, the question needs to be asked, is this about making money, or about going renewable, or about being resilient as a community?
If it’s about making money for the shareholders – even if they’re locals – then surely it should be placed on the windiest site in NZ? Investment-wise, is there a better option?
Back when the idea was first floated, wind was more ‘economic’ than solar, but a lot has changed since 2006. Solar can be bought in smaller chunks, is quiet and doesn’t require maintenance. Nobody objects to neighbours with panels on their roofs as it just denotes an intelligent neighbourhood!
If it’s about local resilience, can the turbines support the community if
Solar panels do a good job and are far less controversial. reflecting that a lot of people seemed to address only one thing at a time, assuming apparently that all other things will stay the same. Take the impact on tourism for example; if we’re going to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, who exactly is going to be visiting, and how? Not many people, unless by bicycle/foot so tourism is eliminated as an argument.
We are rapidly approaching several global bottlenecks, of which Climate Change is but one. Draw-down of natural capital, overpopulation and under-addressing of pollution are all parts of the compounding problem.
We need to put society – locally, nationally and globally – on a sustainable footing, and we are seriously late in doing so. Locally and nationally we are fundamentally hamstrung in that we have to operate under the Brundtland definition of sustainability, the key to our RMA. Unfortunately, whatever else it is, the Brundtland definition is not a definition of sustainability. We may end up challenging it before this process finishes.
The use of fossil energy is not sustainable – it’s a one-off draw-down. Currently, fossil energy is essential to human life at all levels, a paradigm with only one possible end result – collapse. That is not up for debate, only the pathway and timeframe.
That being a clearly stupid goal, we must change to renewable energy using the remaining fossil energy. Given that we are already using it full noise, and that we have already dug up and burnt the best, the move to renewables cannot be fast enough.
Nimbyism – while understandable – cannot possibly carry the same weight in terms of social urgency. Many of the objectors are indulging in landuse practices which are – in a word – unsustainable (see Para 2).
So we are left with one question: is this proposal the best use of the time and resources remaining? This question is obscured by our societal conversation being almost totally about ‘money’ which is irrelevant to a large degree. In a truly sustainable society/economy/ ecology, you cannot ‘make a return’ on ‘investment’; the return would expect to be spent, which represents ‘growth’. Growth and sustainability are incompatible.
So we simply ask, is this the best thing – or one of the best things – that can be done at this time?
It certainly beats producing meat from Abbotsford clay terrain using fossil fuels.
Given that I live close-by, I could claim to be worried by the noise possibility; this would be somewhat hypocritical given the incessant highway noise we all currently accept.
Aesthetics? We all accept the Mt Cargill tower. Unbolt these things and the terrain is unaltered – the same cannot be said of most other land-use practices.
A longer-term question is whether this proposal can be severed from the ‘grid’ in the face of societal/fiscal breakdown. If it cannot – and local storage would seem to be a pertinent factor – then is there a better way of building local energy resilience?
But basically I look to the applicant to convince me that the proposal is better here than at a windier site, and that it is better, more sustainable, more resilient, than the alternatives (local hydro, solar PV, other). If that is done, it has my support.