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Wind Farms: Powering Future or Destroying Past?

‘Powering our Future’ or Destroying our Past? The Otago Wind Farms

The region of Otago is in a state of significant upheaval over the giant turbines of Meridian’s Project Hayes and TrustPower’s Mahinerangi Wind Farm.

Both wind farms have been given interim consent. Both decisions are being appealed in court by a variety of NGO groups whose members include well-known personalities such as Anton Oliver, Grahame Sydney, Brian Turner and Marilynn Webb. Central Otago District Council, which adopted the motto ‘World of Difference’ to characterise its celebrated natural beauty, has been accused of hypocrisy by its favourite sons and daughters.

The reason? With, in the first instance, a combined 276 turbines and 190 kilometres of twelve-metre-wide roading, Project Hayes and Mahinerangi Wind Farm stand to be the most visible industrial sites in New Zealand. Both wind farms will intrude on cherished, officially designated ‘outstanding landscapes’, and annihilate nationally significant historic features such as the Old Dunstan Road. Opponents bitterly assert that they will crowd Central Otago’s wild heart.

TrustPower and Meridian have received All-of-Government submissions in support, yet the wind farms’ economic and energy merits have been hotly disputed by independent consultants such as Bryan Leyland. Ralph Matthes, Chief Executive of the Major Energy Users’ Group, has slammed the Energy Strategy, which aims for 90 % Renewables by 2030, as an impending economic disaster. The generators claim that the wind resources are world class, yet locals attest to long still winter periods.

Long-time Paerau residents have described bullying, strategically divisive behaviour by representatives of the nation’s largest State-Owned Enterprise, Meridian. Moreover, the Central Otago District Council has refused to employ an independent noise consultant in defending the decision it now ‘owns’, despite being directed to do so by the court.

Must Helen Clark’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2050 come at the cost of our finest scenery? Can the industrialisation of Otago’s celebrated heartland be called ‘green’? This David-and-Goliath battle is set to be one of the country’s biggest environmental conflicts.

Visit www.savecentral.org to learn about threats to this unspoiled Central Otago landscape, and Save Central's plans to oppose them in the Environment Court (appeal begins 19 May)


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