Friday, April 03, 2009


MainPower's proposed Mt Cass windfarm has been refused resource consent by the Hurunui District Council. In their decision, the council commissioners said that the proposed windfarm site was an "outstanding natural feature of national importance", the damage to which could not be mitigated. The decision [PDF] seems to have been based purely on physical, ecosystem and biodiversity impacts; "visual pollution" was not a major issue.

Also turned down is Contact Energy's Waitahora wind farm. This one will almost certainly go to the Environment Court as the decision is based strongly on landscape impact and "amenity values" (something that the court has disagreed with councils over before). The conclusion also leaves a lot to be desired - basically turning down everything despite the fact that "a number of the applications assessed individually, were not controversial", on the basis of impacts the commissioners themselves admit were finely balanced and "capable of avoidance or mitigation by appropriate conditions" (in which case those conditions should have been imposed). Contact has solid grounds for appeal here, though whether it will result in overall consent for the windfarm being granted remains to be seen.

The government will no doubt use these rejections as yet more ammunition in its push to gut the RMA, cut out local communities and give developers a blank cheque. I don't think so. The first at least is an example of the Act working as intended to protect the environment (even within the narrow physical interpretation favoured by National). The second is a case of poor decisionmaking, which may very well be overturned on appeal, and which the legal scheme does not protect against.

[Hat-tip: Hot Topic]