Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Turitea windfarm goes to court

A couple of months ago, I sent in a submission opposing Palmerston North City Council's plans to develop a windfarm in the Turitea Reserve behind Massey University. Today I got a letter in the mail from the Friends of the Turitea Reserve Society inviting me to join and help fund their court case. And looking at tonight's Manawatu Standard, it seems the case has already begun - the Friends of the Turitea Reserve are seeking a declaration from the High Court that the council's decision to allow renewable electricity generation in the reserve (a decision which scored them a $250,000 "milestone payment" from Mighty River Power - my local government is transparently for sale) was unlawful:

Documents lodged with the High Court said the council's decision to add the further purpose to the reserve is ultra vires and unlawful because the Reserves Act does not allow a purpose that is mutually incompatible with existing purposes. The two original purposes of the reserve were to protect flora and fauna and the water supply.

The society also questions the council's consultation process saying information contained in the consultation document and in council representations was "unbalanced, misleading and biased" in its representation of the benefit of the wind farm proposal.

I'm not sure how good their case is - DOC apparently changed its mind on the question of incompatibility with the Reserves Act - but I hope they're successful. Don't get me wrong - I like windfarms - I just don't think there's any need to repurpose reserves and cut down regenerating native bush to make space for them. There's plenty of ordinary farmland on the Tararuas, and they should fill that before even thinking about touching reserve land.

If you'd like to help the case, email and ask for a membership form. Membership is $10, and I should probably put my money where my mouth is and join something for once.


I can see why people are opposing it, but personally I have no problem with the idea. I don't think a windfarm is incompatible with the original purpose of the reserve, and money the council gets from Mighty River will be used to improve the reserve, so that seems a fair exchange. I also get the impression that a lot of the opposition is actually coming from NIMBY types in the Turitea Valley.

Posted by Psycho Milt : 11/15/2006 08:49:00 AM

"The two original purposes of the reserve were to protect flora and fauna and the water supply."

"I don't think a windfarm is incompatible with the original purpose of the reserve"


Clearly a windfarm would not help further the original purposes of the reserve. However it isn't 'incompatible' either, in the sense that a windfarm would make protecting flora/fauna/water supply harder.

But by the same token, neither would putting a big fat mansion in the reserve be detrimental to flora/fauna/water supply (so long as it was constructed with some degree of sensitivity). So here's my offer - I'll pay $250k for the right to build a house there. Consistency - allowing development if it doesn't kill birds or suck up water, basically - would dictate that you should let me.

The point is, local government shouldn't be for sale.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/15/2006 12:01:00 PM

From the PNCC page announcing that DoC shares my view that it's not incompatible with the purpose of the reserve:

The advantages of a windfarm and ecopark are, as follows;

• A unique ecopark will provide an opportunity for residents and visitors to use
• They will enhance the values of a neglected reserve that contains more than 80 percent of the city’s indigenous vegetation
• There will be significant economic benefits (employment) from the construction of the windfarm ($60 million)
• A return of up to $1 million annually will be made to the city for the ecopark development and other reserve development in the future
• It will provide walkway linkages with the TeAraroa Trail, the Kahuterawa outdoor hub and a track across to Wairarapa
• It will position the region at the forefront of windfarm energy development in the southern hemisphere
• It will restore native bush and birdlife
• The city will have played its part in addressing serious global warning issues through the development of renewable, sustainable energy.

If you can achieve that by building a house there, you're doing well. If the point is that local govt shouldn't be for sale, there's some obligation on you to demonstrate that it was sold in this case - personally, I don't see it.

Posted by Psycho Milt : 11/15/2006 01:17:00 PM

Well, the fact is that they will receive $250k from MRPower for changing the purpose of the reserve, but won't receive that $250k from MRPower if they don't change the purpose of the reserve. You can call it a 'sale' or a 'reward' or a 'milestone payment' but the substantive content is the same: their decision is being bought out.

I'm with the blogger here: I like windfarms but don't like local government decisions being available to the highest bidder.

As for that list of "advantages of a windfarm and ecopark", well the only benefits that enhance the reserve are those benefits which flow from the ecopark. The wind turbines will have economic benefits for the region, sure, but those aren't improving the reserve in any direct way.

So the same objection still goes; if I offer $250k and the promise of an 'ecopark' bundled with changing the purpose of the reserve to allow a single big fat mansion to be built there, then consistency dictates PNCC / you should accept my offer.

It's great that PNCC are thinking positively about renewable energy, but riding roughshod over laws is a poor way to acheive NZ's sustainable energy goals.

Also, if compensation for a change in purpose of the reserve is due, surely some should be given to the owners in the Turitea valley. They paid for their land next door to a reserve, now they get reduced amenity value from living near a windfarm, or alternatively reduced property values when they sell.

Mind you, this is a problem with the RMA in general.

Posted by Anonymous : 11/15/2006 03:23:00 PM