Resource consent applications by Ventus Energy Limited to build and operate a 22-turbine wind farm in Waitomo have been granted, subject to an extensive range of conditions.
The company made two resource consent applications to build a wind farm near Taharoa late last year.
The first application, lodged with Environment Waikato, was related to earthworks at the proposed Taumatatotara West Road site. The company applied to construct roads, build foundations and crane pads, remove vegetation and upgrade Taumatatotara West Road.
The second application, lodged with Waitomo District Council, related to the building of 22 wind turbines and operation of the wind farm.
Two committees, one appointed by Environment Waikato and the other by Waitomo District Council, considered submissions from a range of parties at a joint hearing in May.
Both committees approved the applications in separate decisions.
Eleven submissions regarding iwi issues, visual effects, traffic, consultation and soil erosion, were lodged with respect to the Environment Waikato applications.
In its report, Environment Waikato’s hearing committee said it supported renewable energy in principle. However, the matters it considered were related strictly to earthworks and the removal of vegetation – not to the erection and operation of wind turbines.
The committee noted the proposal required a large quantity of earthworks in a steep area, which could potentially create difficulties with controlling environmental effects.
However, it determined adverse environmental impacts such as land instability, dust emissions, water quality and exotic weed invasion were likely to be minor, and could be adequately avoided, remedied, or mitigated if consent conditions were complied with.
These conditions required the site to be carefully planned, designed and constructed. A detailed geotechnical investigation prior to construction and appropriate erosion and sediment control measures were also required.
The committee noted the applications were consistent with Environment Waikato’s Regional Policy Statement and Proposed Waikato Regional Plan, and part two of the Resource Management Act.
Waitomo District Council’s hearing committee said the Ventus Energy proposal was generally consistent with the objectives, policies and environmental outcomes sought by relevant council plans and with the sustainable management purpose of the Resource Management Act.
Apart from the height of the turbines, effects from the wind farm – for example earthworks and noise – would be largely contained within the site and would be minor.
The nearest dwelling to the wind farm was located 1.8km away, helping to mitigate noise and visual effects.
The committee said effects relating to the height of the turbines would be more than minor, particularly when considered with regard to visual and landscape effects.
“However, the nature and scale of the development is such that it would have those effects on almost any site selected,” it said.
Suitable locations for wind farms in New Zealand were limited due to specific site requirements, and the proposal was consistent with legislation and policies relating to renewable energy.
“The benefits of the wind farm, when seen in the national context, outweigh the site-specific effects, and the effects on the local surrounding area,” the committee said.
The wind farm would positively contribute to national carbon dioxide reduction strategies, enhance New Zealand’s electricity security, and enable people and communities to provide for their wellbeing.