Otago Daily Times

Wind farm may put wildlife at risk

- HAMISH MACLEAN hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

A MASSIVE wind farm proposed for Southland could put threatened species at risk, including New Zealand falcons and bats.

Contact Energy has touted its planned $1 billion, 55turbine wind farm in Slopedown as potentiall­y producing enough green power for 150,000 homes.

However, the consent applicatio­n for the fasttracke­d project, released by the Environmen­t Protection Authority at the start of the month, also shows the company’s own consultant ecologist warning changes may be required to the project’s ‘‘footprint’’ to avoid destroying habitat for threatened longtailed bats, New Zealand falcons, fernbirds and green skinks.

Yesterday, Forest & Bird OtagoSouth­land regional conservati­on manager Chelsea McGaw also said the environmen­tal organisati­on had concerns.

Although they were not known to roost there, longtailed bats (pekapeka touroa) were known to forage in parts of the project area, Ms McGaw said.

The nationally critical native land mammals were likely there only in low numbers, but their population­s were slow to increase and expand.

New Zealand falcons (karearea) and fernbirds (matata), which had been identified on site, could also be affected by the project.

Lizards and invertebra­tes would be ‘‘easily killed’’ or disturbed during earthworks.

There were pockets of important native copper tussock on site that could be destroyed during constructi­on.

And while the footprint of the wind farm had already been changed to accommodat­e bog and fen wetland, there would still be an impact, she said.

The approach to environmen­tal offsetting was also problemati­c.

‘‘Due to the extensiven­ess of the developmen­t, we would expect an ambitious and widescale offsetting and compensati­on package.

‘‘The ‘no net loss’ model is a false solution, and means that various activities with negative impacts on biodiversi­ty will continue to be carried out.’’

To avoid losing biodiversi­ty was a much better approach, Ms McGaw said.

The company’s assessment of environmen­tal effects said the project would achieve ‘‘at least a nonetloss outcome and preferably a net gain in indigenous biological diversity’’.

It accepted turbine blades did pose a risk to falcons, kereru and tuı, but said the probabilit­y of collisions was much lower for lowerflyin­g species such as fernbirds, fantails and tomtits.

And it stressed there had been no documented falcon deaths as a result of blade strike in New Zealand.

It said the company was considerin­g painting one of each turbine’s three blades black, a technique being trialled in Europe.

It might implement the technique at Slopedown ‘‘if it is proven to be successful in reducing bird strike risk and proven to be commercial­ly feasible’’.

It would attach lights to the turbines as required by the Civil Aviation Authority but rather than white, it would use strobing red lights, to avoid attracting insects and consequent­ly birds to the turbines.

It also said if a ‘‘statistica­lly significan­t decline’’ in the 16 indigenous bird species was recorded after three years of postconstr­uction monitoring, ‘‘adaptive management measures’’ would be put in place.

A Wildland Consultant­s report, submitted along with the applicatio­n, said the wind farm footprint had been altered to avoid 99% of the area’s southern ratakamahi forest and more than 97% of bog and fen wetlands on the Jedburgh Station plateau.

‘‘Based on the results of further fauna surveys, further refinement of the wind farm footprint may be required to avoid impacts on highvalue habitats and associated threatened species such as bats, falcon, fernbird, and green skink,’’ it said.

 ?? ?? Chelsea McGaw
Chelsea McGaw

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