Effect more than minor, ecologist tells hearing

The clearance of indigenous tussock on the Lammermoor Range as a result of Meridian Energy's proposed Project Hayes wind farm development would have a more than minor effect on ecology at the site, an Environment Court appeal hearing was told yesterday.

Wildland Consultants Ltd botanist and ecologist Kelvin Lloyd, of Dunedin, gave evidence at the hearing on the potential effect of about 300ha of indigenous vegetation being cleared across the proposed 92sq km site.

Dr Lloyd said the overall effect of vegetation clearance would have a more than minor effect on the area's ecology, although the clearance would not occur in a single area, but would be dispersed in small areas across the site.

In his written evidence, Dr Lloyd said road construction along the alignment of existing farm tracks would have minor effects on indigenous vegetation, but the construction of turbines, new roads, and significant extensions to existing roads would result in the clearance of indigenous tussock grassland which was more than minor.

He had identified nine nationally or regionally threatened or uncommon plant species within the Project Hayes site, on which about 150km of roads would be constructed or modified.

Dr Lloyd said he had identified one area within the Project Hayes boundary, on part of Loganburn Station, which he considered to be significant in terms of inherent ecological values, which Meridian had agreed to protect.

He also said, like most other tussock grasslands subject to pastoral use, the proposed Project Hayes area had been periodically burned, oversown, and top-dressed, which reduced the stature of tussock plants and tussock density.

There was a comprehensive network of farm tracks and roads within the wind farm site, which was used for farming and public access, as well as for maintenance of the electricity transmission facilities in southern parts of the area.

Construction and use of the roads and tracks had resulted in varying levels of vegetation clearance and physical disturbance, which had reduced dominance of indigenous plants, he aid.

Dr Lloyd proposed replanting of tussock would be best in November and February and said coral broom could be propagated and planted within the Project Hayes site to increase the plant's numbers.

He said Meridian was responsible for managing gorse, Scotch broom, and any pines on the property which, if done, would partly mitigate adverse ecological effects of the development.

"The wind farm project will have adverse effects on indigenous vegetation and habitats, but I would not describe the tussock grasslands as being comparatively unmodified.

"A relatively large area of tussock grassland would be cleared but, in my opinion, the adverse effects of this would be mitigated adequately by protection of indigenous tussock grassland and other vegetation in the 95ha Loganburn Gorge."


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