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Windfarm Consent Process Loaded

Windfarm Consent Process Loaded Against Local Communities

The decision of the Palmerston North planning commissioner Alistair Auburn to approve a windfarm site using Windflow’s experimental turbine again highlights the unsatisfactory processes which are being used to push through windfarm consents in New Zealand, according to the Democrat Party’s social issues researcher, David Tranter..

In particular, Mr. Auburn’s stated view, apparently based on his consideration of Windflow’s experimental turbine at Gebbies Pass on Banks Peninsula, that “noise effects in relation to the existing rural-residential dwellings will be no more than minor” completely dismisses two years of local experience in that area.

When Windflow arrived at Gebbies Pass their ceo Geoff Henderson promised that the nearest residents would hear the turbine for not more than five percent of its running time. Windflow also stated in their literature that “most” modern turbines are inaudible at 300 metres. Both claims were subsequently shown to be outrageously inaccurate and concerns about the noise and possible health effects continue despite repeated Windflow claims to have “solved” the noise problem.

The manipulation of facts surrounding wind turbines is further exemplified by Jeanette Fitzsimons whose Green Party’s pension fund is invested in Windflow. In response to concerns conveyed to her Ms Fitzsimons declared that those hearing the noise were actually hearing something that doesn’t exist. She “explained” that this was similar to the phantom pains experienced following the amputation of a limb, an extraordinary claim given the considerable number of people, both residents and visitors, who have heard the noise.

Banks Peninsula residents who challenged the Gebbies Pass consent discovered that the district council’s appointed noise consultant, David Shovel, had no previous experience of wind turbines and while he was in close communication with Windflow he ignored correspondence from those opposing the consent. Further, despite promises that the noise testing of the turbine would be an “open book” Mr. Shovel’s analysis of the results is not available to local residents – and even the council say they cannot have a copy of it.

Mr. Shovel’sindependent work was supposed to be “peer reviewed” by Marshall Day (the same company which swapped sides from representing the local people opposing the Makara windfarm site) but it appears that he simply worked under Marshall Day’s supervision.

The extent to which the dice are loaded against those raising concerns about windfarms is further demonstrated by the recent refusal to grant resource consent to a Genesis windfarm in the North Island – but having won their case the local people are now going to have to raise up to $150,000 just to participate in the appeal against that refusal.

While the Democrat Party supports windpower in principle as part of an environmentally sound energy programme we believe that a review is urgently needed of the present ad hoc consent processes which are being followed around New Zealand. There are growing concerns overseas about the economics of windpower but even accepting for argument’s sake that it is economically and environmentally sound the siting of such massive industrial installations is crucial and requires a coordinated approach. David Tranter Social Issues Researcher, N.Z. Democrat Party.

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