Power firms against scrapping clause

A Central Otago district plan change sparked by proposals for new power generation projects is likely to cause confusion rather than clarify the issues, power companies say.

One of the 23 plan changes being debated in front of the Central Otago District Council's hearings panel seeks to delete a clause relating to energy and utilities infrastructure.

The clause refers to the objectives and policies of one section of the district plan being a "complete code" for any activities relating to energy and utilities infrastructure.

Council planning consultant David Whitney said the clause came under the spotlight at the hearings into the Project Hayes wind farm. Last year, the Environment Court cancelled resource consents which had been issued for the proposed $2 billion wind farm on the Lammermoor Range.

A five-day High Court appeal hearing on the matter begins in Dunedin on June 21.

Mr Whitney said the aim with the plan change was to remove any confusion, as objectives and policies in the rest of the district plan were also relevant when considering any power generation projects.

Contact Energy and Pioneer Generation Ltd were among several power companies which requested the clause remain in the district plan. A solicitor for both companies, Susan Newell, appeared before the panel yesterday to make submissions on behalf of the companies.

Cr Tony Lepper said the council perhaps had "painted too small a picture" in seeking the change.

Ms Newell said Contact believed the proposed change was fundamental to how the district plan intended to deal with electricity generation activities in the future.

"In my submission, retaining the status quo is unambiguous," she said.

It appeared the plan change was intended to address concerns that had arisen as a result of proposals for new power generation projects such as wind farms.

The Environment Court decision on the Project Hayes wind farm said the district plan section relating to energy and utilities infrastructure overrode the district-wide rules and performance standards.

There was no statement that the court found the existing rules relating to infrastructure deficient or unworkable, Ms Newell said.

In her submission for Pioneer Generation, she said it was appropriate to have a complete code in one section of the district plan. That still allowed environmental effects to be taken into consideration.

"If there was any confusion, it has been resolved as a result of the Environment Court's decision regarding the Project Hayes wind farm," she said.

- lynda.van.kempen@odt.co.nz


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