27 Aug 2008

Govt fast-tracks Waikato wind farm proposal

3:08 pm on 27 August 2008

A huge wind farm on the Waikato coastline is to be fast-tracked through the resource consent process.

Contact Energy wants to build 180 turbines along a 40km stretch of the North Island coast between Port Waikato and Raglan. The $2 billion project is was announced last October.

The Government will fast-track the scheme through a process known as calling in. This allows resource consents to be heard by a board of inquiry instead of three local councils, which the Government feared could be cumbersome.

The resource consent issues can be appealed only on points of law.

Contact Energy had complained about slow bureaucratic processes and challenged the Government to improve resource consent hearings if it wants progress on renewable energy.

Environment Minister Trevor Mallard says he called in the Waikato project because it is deemed to be of national significance.

Mr Mallard says the resource consent applications will still be considered in line with both regional and district plans, and the board will consider public submissions and hold public meetings.

With a maximum capacity of 540 megawatts, Contact's project will be more than three times larger than the biggest existing wind farm, situated on the Tararua Range near the Manawatu Gorge.

The Waikato wind farm is the second largest scheme on the drawing board after Meridian's Project Hayes, proposed for Otago's Lammermoor Range.