Noise expert payment refused

The Central Otago District Council has refused to pay for a noise expert to give evidence at an Environment Court hearing for the proposed Project Hayes wind farm development on the Lammermoor Ranges.

At a CODC planning and environment committee meeting in Alexandra yesterday, members made a resolution that stated the council would agree to appoint a noise expert for the hearing, subject to funding being provided by government sources.

Members agreed the wind farm was a development for the national good, and the CODC had been landed with the cost of defending its development.

CODC planning and environment manager Louise van der Voort said it would cost at least $45,000 for the noise expert to give evidence at the six-week hearing, held in two stages at Alexandra from May 19 and July 28.

‘‘There is also likely to be further costs on top of that [$45,000],'' she told the meeting.

Committee members and CODC councillors Neil Gillespie and Tony Lepper were opposed to paying for the noise expert, as was recommended to the council by Environment Court Judge Jon Jackson at a pre-hearing in Alexandra last month.

‘‘It seems to me that this council has made a decision and that says we have no dispute with the noise, and we are happy with the decision that's been made.

"Despite the fact that we are opening ourselves up to criticism, I can see no reason to spend $45,000 plus other costs that will do nothing other than perhaps support Meridian Energy's evidence,'' Cr Gillespie said at the meeting.

Meridian Energy was granted resource consent for Project Hayes by independent commissioners at a hearing in Alexandra last year, which was being appealed to the Environment Court by 11 different parties.

The council resolved to defend the Project Hayes resource consent in December last year, and make three people available for questioning at the appeal hearing, including its planning consultant and a staff member of a landscape architect firm.

Mrs van der Voort said those three people would cost the council about $100,000 to give evidence at the hearing in defence of the decision to grant resource consent.

Committee chairman John Lane said the council's staff had indicated they preferred that a noise expert was appointed by the council at the hearing.

‘‘We [the council] are already under enough criticism as it is after the pre-hearing,'' he said.

Cr Lepper told the meeting there was no reason to pay for the evidence of a noise expert.

‘‘I would have thought that the noise effects of a wind farm are standard and known by most people. Why would we throw $45,000 down the tube?'' Cr Lepper said.

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