After years of battling Wellington’s gales Warren Bryant and his farming neighbours decided to turn the region’s most notorious feature to their advantage.
From early 2012 until 2014 four adjoining farms in the Ohariu Valley, close to Wellington, were transformed as contractors moved in with their machinery to start preparing the ground for wind turbines.
Warren says the idea for wind farming came from a local engineer who suggested the venture almost 20 years ago.
Wind is a feature of farming in this part of Wellington. Local farmers say the views are hard to beat, but if you waited for the wind to drop you would end up staying home.
The Bryant family have been farming in the valley for six generations but hanging on to the land for that long has not been easy. Their farm is one of only a handful of commercial farms left in this part of Wellington.
Local farmers share the valley with lifestyle blocks and private homes.
Warren’s farm is nearly 700ha of hill country that stretches from the Ohariu Valley Rd out to Cook Strait.
When the idea of a windfarm was first suggested farmers had been through a string of droughts and were looking for ways of securing their income for themselves and the next generation. All of them saw wind farming as a way of doing that.
In the late 1990s the four farmers formed a company and approached power companies for proposals. By 2000 they had selected Meridian Energy’s plan for a 26 turbine project.
The plan was controversial with some residents. But 11 years after selecting Meridian to do the job resource consents were approved and work finally got underway.
More than 1000 workers were on the site over the course of project, shifting 800,000 cubic metres of earthworks and building 19km of access tracks.
Warren says sharing his farm with a large number of people and machinery took some adjustment, but he says he saw it as a short time inconvenience for the long term security the wind farm provides. The farmers get a rental on the turbines based on a percentage of the revenue each one generates.
In November 2014 the Mill Creek wind farm became fully operational. On average the farm generates enough electricity each year for around 30,000 homes.
Warren says he and his neighbours love using the sealed roads that were formed during the wind farm construction. He says he has also got used to the turbines and the way that they fit with the landscape.
“There are times that I stand back and look at them and think wow - they are amazing machines, quite graceful.”