Project Hayes decision to affect investment across NZ?

The Environment Court’s decision to oppose Meridian Energy’s Project Hayes windfarm is a concern for every infrastructure investment in the country, says the New Zealand Wind Energy Association.

Chief executive Fraser Clark said Meridian would find support for its appeal across other industries.

On Friday, Meridian’s chief executive Tim Lusk said it would appeal the decision, which if left to stand, would block nationally important projects.

Project Hayes, a $2 billion, 176-turbine windfarm, was planned for the Lammermoor Range in Central Otago but staunchly opposed by the local community and personalities including Anton Oliver, Brian Turner and Grahame Sydney.

Resource consent, granted in 2007, was overturned this month.

Mr Lusk said developments of the kind had an inescapable impact on the environment, but setting the bar so high on environmental standards would not help the economy or society people aspired to.

The Environment Court decision had effectively created a new, cost-benefit analysis test, which required evaluation against other hypothetical projects – expanding the RMA process into an economic management system controlling all new generation, he said.

Mr Clark said there was some government awareness of the challenges faced under the RMA, which was evident in the first phase of changes that included a new Environmental Protection Agency to facilitate consents for large-scale projects.

But the balance between public good and environmental outcomes had not yet been found.

Speaking at the Clean Energy Summit and Expo in Auckland on Wednesday, Mr Clark will address some of the issues in managing wind farm investment in the current climate.

There were definitely opportunities, he said. “Wind energy is still worth considering.”

While there were “a number of planets that need to align” to enable projects to get off the ground, there were alternative investment options.

These included partnering between projects and technologies and energy companies, public-private agreements, and agreements between industrial users and projects.

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The New Zealand Wind Energy Association has not once come clean and admitted that some landscapes are simply out of bounds when it comes to wind farm development. Project Hayes went down because to build a giant wind farm in that torless landscape would have been an act of environmental vandalism. There are lots of other wind farm sites in the South, but there are no other Lammermoor plateaus. Meridian's decision to appeal is immoral; this is an attempt to bankrupt civilian opposition and force a conclusion, notwithstanding the Environment Court's meticulousness.

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