Wind farm delay

Claimed delays over a further Environment Court hearing involving the proposed Project Hayes wind farm on the Lammermoor Range in Central Otago were highlighted at an Otago Regional Council meeting on Wednesday.

Cr Michael Deaker, a member of the council's regulatory committee, said he would not have thought the Environment Court was "so understaffed" and so overworked that any further applications regarding the proposed $2 billion project could not be considered until next year.

Cr Deaker was responding to a council committee report on consent processing and related matters at a meeting of the council committee.

A report on the proposed wind farm said the Environment Court had indicated that applications concerning the project would not be reconsidered until next year.

The report noted that a joint hearing panel of the Otago Regional Council and the Central Otago District Council had initially considered wind farm consent applications by Meridian Energy. The applications were subsequently granted in 2007.

However, the Environment Court overturned the consents in November 2009.

Meridian appealed that decision to the High Court and the regional council joined that appeal in support of Meridian's case.

The High Court heard the case and made its decision in mid-August last year, rejecting some of the Environment Court's findings and referring the decision on the applications back to the Environment Court.

Cr Deaker said in an interview he was concerned about the further delays, given the importance of the wind farm to the regional economy and its national significance in terms of energy production.

In wider discussion, the committee also heard that the Environment Court had also faced some difficulties, given other matters, including the High Court appeal, and the possibility of other appeals.

- john.gibb@odt.co.nz