Call for fresh evidence on wind farm

An application for new evidence to be heard at an Environment Court appeal hearing for Meridian Energy's proposed $1.5 billion Project Hayes wind farm will be decided this morning.

Appellant party Maniototo Environmental Society (MES) counsel Mike Holm, of Auckland, lodged an application for new evidence to be heard in relation to possible cumulative effects of both Project Hayes and the Mahinerangi wind farm.

As TrustPower's $400 million Mahinerangi project, which would sit southeast of the proposed Project Hayes site, was granted consent last month, there were possible cumulative effects of both developments to be considered by the Environment Court in dealing with Meridian's proposed 176-turbine farm on the Lammermoor Range.

Mr Holm told Judge Jon Jackson yesterday he was having difficulty determining the availability of witnesses who would need to be called if his application for new evidence was granted.

He asked for an extra day to deal with the issue, which Judge Jackson allowed.

Meridian counsel Andrew Beatson opposed the application for new evidence, saying Meridian would be concerned about the hearing of any new evidence on landscape and visual aspects of Project Hayes, as the two weeks set down for such arguments had passed.

"There's a concern about the introduction of landscape and visual evidence after that part of the hearing, when our landscape expert witnesses aren't available to give their evidence," he said.

Judge Jackson said Meridian could apply to strike out the evidence, or the Environment Court could grant leave for Meridian to call any necessary witnesses again.

MES member and individual Project Hayes appellant Anton Oliver, of St Bathans, attended yesterday's hearing supporting the application for new evidence.

Speaking outside the court, he said it would be irresponsible for the Environment Court not to consider possible cumulative effects of Project Hayes and Mahinerangi.

"If the application goes in our favour, that will be huge. I can't see why you can't look at these things [wind farms] on a national level. To view them individually is irresponsible, I think."

Mr Oliver said he always thought one of the two wind farm projects would "sacrifice" the other, although initially he believed the Project Hayes decision would be made ahead of Mahinerangi.

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