Ratepayers paying $211,000 for Hayes

Ratepayers will be footing the bill - $211,000- for the Central Otago District Council's involvement in the Project Hayes appeal.

Meridian backed away this week from its battle to construct the $2 billion, 633MW, 176-turbine wind farm on the Lammermoor Range, withdrawing its resource consent applications before the Environment Court and announcing it had shelved the project for commercial reasons.

The district council and Otago regional council granted consents for the project in 2007, with a panel of commissioners voting 4-1 in favour of Project Hayes.

While Meridian paid the costs of the initial consent, the costs incurred by the council since then during the appeal process were "unrecoverable" and amounted to about $211,000, district council planning and environment manager Louise van der Voort said yesterday.

That money would come from rates.

"That's the cost of democracy," district councillor and council hearings panel chairman John Lane said.

Central Otago Mayor Tony Lepper was unavailable yesterday to comment.

Approached by the Otago Daily Times for comment, Mr Lane said the council had to defend its stance on the project.

"We have to have faith in our commissioners. It all comes down in the end to democracy and that comes at a cost."

Mr Lane was on the panel that gave consent to the wind farm in 2007 and said he was disappointed at Meridian's decision to shelve the project.

"Frankly, I think it's a huge loss for Central Otago."

He believed it was the Environment Court decision in November 2009, which said the negative effects of the wind farm outweighed the positive effects, and identified the Lammermoors as an outstanding natural landscape, that had "sunk" the proposal.

Meridian Energy is one of the appellants and its chief executive, Mark Binns, said the energy company planned to continue its opposition "to help ensure robust planning frameworks are in place to support other potential wind-farm developments in the region in the future."

The site for the farm covered 92sq km, part of five high country stations. Meridian bought one of them, Logan Burn, Paerau, in 2007. No decision had been made on what the company would do with the 1860ha of land, Mr Binns said. The land is in two titles and the rateable value of the larger (1221ha) block, is $4.5 million.




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