12 Jul 2016

Seven-year plan for Otago turbines rejected

5:21 pm on 12 July 2016

Plans to build three wind turbines to generate electricity for a small rural community north of Dunedin have been rejected.

The Blueskin Bay hill where the wind turbines were proposed to be installed.

The Blueskin Bay hill where the wind turbines were proposed to be installed. Photo: Alison Ballance

The 90m high towers, proposed for a hill above Blueskin Bay, have been judged by an independent commissioner to be a blight on the landscape.

The turbines were opposed by three nearby residents who said they ruined the natural beauty of the area.

Colin Weatherall said he may have made a different decision if he had more scope.

Colin Weatherall said he may have made a different decision if he had more scope. Photo: RNZ/ Conan Young

The independent commissioner charged with deciding the project's fate, Colin Weatherall, said at a distance of 400 metres, the wind mills would have been closer to homes than any previously built in New Zealand.

"They're not obstructing sea views but they're in their space, they're in their view... in one case [you can see them] out your kitchen window.

"It'll be dominant in the space they view. The residents in these rural properties have been there greater than 15 years plus, they've got an established position in that location of what they can expect to be there."

In making his decision, Mr Weatherall paid attention to the government's National Policy Statement that said regard had to be given to the benefits that flowed from renewable energy projects such as wind turbines.

"I won't indicate it was as sharp as a knife edge but it was like sitting on the back of a blunt knife, it was finely balanced.

"I've indicated that if I had slightly wider ability to consider the placement of the three towers, or in fact remove one tower, the decision may have been different."

Andy Barratt was worried the turbines would set a precedent if approved.

Andy Barratt was worried the turbines would set a precedent if approved. Photo: RNZ/ Conan Young

Andy Barratt opposed the turbines, not because they were going to spoil his view - he lives a 10 minute drive down the road - but because he was worried they would set a precedent and allow others to be set up close to where other people live.

"They do make a lot of noise, even though you can get people saying they can deal with noise issues and they're not as noisy as they used to be, and there are some concerns also about the effects even of low level noise from these on a consistent basis and the effect it has on people's health and well-being."

The chairperson of the community trust behind the idea, Craig Marshall, was disappointed at the decision which followed seven years of hard work by the trustees, who were all volunteers.

"Our particular interest was in showing a community with very limited resources can achieve something that's normally thought of as being the province of much bigger organisations.

"So it's from the community and it would be for the community. We think that's a precedent in a number of ways, not just for a wind farm."

If the turbines had been granted approval, Mr Marshall said he was confident the group would have been able to raise the $5 million to $6m required to build the turbines, and then some.

"If we were to go ahead at some point, we would generate enough power to be able to get a proper agreement to pay for that.

"Then the money, the profit or the surplus if you like from that operation can be used for community initiatives."

The trust now has three weeks to decide if it will appeal the decision.

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