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Marlborough District Council Seeks More Detail On Solar Farm Opposed By Neighbours

The Marlborough District Council has asked for more information about a solar farm proposal, such as possible glare from panels and their lifespan.

Neighbours of the site, on Dillons Point Rd near Blenheim, have previously expressed their opposition to the farm going on the land.

The 8-hectare site was bought by Marlborough Lines last year with the intention of constructing a solar farm on the site.

The consent was lodged by a Marlborough-based resource management consulting company in March on behalf of Energy Marlborough, a subsidiary of Marlborough Lines.

The consent application said establishment of the proposed solar farm would involve an archaeological assessment before work started, upgrades to the vehicle entrance on the property, and new fencing to restrict site access.

A new overhead power line across the Ōpaoa River was also proposed.

In a letter to the consulting company dated May 17, the council requested more information on six different topics.

These included:

1. Water take and use: The consent application said water would be needed to wash the solar panels and to support the farm, which would require a permit.

The letter asked for the quantity of water that would be needed per use.

2. Boundary fencing: The council sought clarification on whether a solid stone fence and landscaping on the entrance of the site would be kept. A licence to occupy would be needed if this was the case.

3. Glint and glare assessment: The applicant was asked to provide a glint and glare assessment from a suitably qualified and experienced practitioner.

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That assessment needed to include effects on neighbours, road users and recreation users of the Ōpaoa River and Kotuku Trail.

4. Ecological assessment: An ecological assessment from a suitably qualified and experienced practitioner was requested.

5. Landscape architect assessment: The council asked for a landscape architect’s assessment and site renders from the east, looking across Ōpaoa River from the Kotuku Trail, which was the most affected point of the trail.

6. Old and damaged solar panels: The letter sought clarification on the lifespan of the solar panels, how regularly they would be checked for damage, what they were made of, and whether any toxic materials could adversely affect the environment, should leachate occur. An assessment was requested from someone suitably qualified.

The letter said the requested information would allow the council to better understand the solar farm’s actual and potential effects on the environment.

Under the Resource Management Act, acknowledgement of the letter needed to be responded to within 15 working days.

If this did not happen, the council had to publicly notify the application, opening it up to public submissions.

Neighbours last year told Local Democracy Reporting they had concerns about the site being in a flood and tsunami zone.

“This is an industrial installation and the risks of having it this close to residents is something that we're not prepared to put up with,” one neighbour said.

The site was also close to the Wairau Bar, one of the oldest archaeological sites in New Zealand.

The consent application said Energy Marlborough was aware of and acknowledged the extensive historic Māori activity in the area associated with the Waikārapi/Vernon Lagoons.

The application confirmed that the site was within a flood hazard area and accepted there were associated risks, providing an image showing the area in flood in 2008.

To mitigate this risk, the application said it would establish minimum “floor levels for habitable structures” of 450mm above natural ground.

The consent application said once operational, the proposed farm would make a significant contribution to Marlborough’s electricity supply, most of which was transmitted from South Canterbury and incurred “considerable energy transmission losses”.

The farm was expected to generate 1.5% of the region’s annual energy demand, which would reduce the amount of energy that had to be brought into the region and the associated transmission losses.

Marlborough Lines chief executive Tim Cosgrove said the council’s decision to seek clarification was just part of its thorough consent process.

He said they were still awaiting a decision from the council on whether the application would need to be publicly notified.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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