Wind farm could attract tourists: witness

A 176-turbine wind farm on the Lammermoor Range in Central Otago could become a tourist attraction in its own right, allowing visitors to get "up close and personal" with the development, an Environment Court appeal hearing was told yesterday.

Meridian Energy witness Rob Greenaway, a recreation planner, of Nelson, agreed with a statement made by Central Otago District Council lawyer Graeme Todd, that people would be able to get close to Meridian's proposed $2 billion Project Hayes development.

"Numbers [of people visiting the wind farm] may be affected by the fact that you can get up close and personal with it.

"it's like going to the airport on a Sunday afternoon to watch the planes take off" Mr Todd said.

He cited parts of Mr Greenaway's evidence which referred to the popularity of wind farms in other parts of New Zealand, where tourists and locals alike frequently asked directions to such developments.

"The most often asked question [in some places wind farms are located] is how to get to the wind farm. There will be interest in how Project Hayes is progressing during construction . . . that will lead to a Sunday driver circumstance," Mr Greenaway said.

Mr Greenaway also agreed Project Hayes would be more accessible to the public than other wind farms in more remote areas.

"There's about six walking access points along the Rock and Pillar side. There are also other four-wheel-drive access routes, as well as the Old Dunstan Rd," Mr Greenaway said.

He said some people would be deterred from partaking in recreational activities around the Project Hayes area due to the presence of turbines, although there were many other areas within Central Otago which offered a similar outdoor experience.

International surveys indi-cated people's concerns about wind farms were greatly reduced after they had been built, he also said.

"There is a common response that wind farms, once built, are nowhere as bad as people thought they would be. They have proved to be less of an issue than people expected," he said.

Mr Greenaway also said the proposed Project Hayes site was of more regional than national or international significance, and its use for recreational activities was limited.

"There are inherent limitations of that site which will inhibit growth of the recreational use of it.

"We are getting softer unfortunately, and less people are willing to camp out in cold, exposed conditions, or bike up a difficult muddy track which pugs wheels," he said.

Mr Greenaway said the likes of easier, family-orientated recreational activities, such as that experienced on the Otago Central Rail Trail, were more likely to grow in popularity.

Day 24

Panel: Environment Court judge Jon Jackson, commissioners Alex Sutherland and Heather McConachy, and deputy commissioner Ken Fletcher.

Yesterday's witnesses:
Ecologist Dr Robin Mitchell, Meridian project delivery manager Paul Wilson and recreation planner Rob Greenaway.

Today: Ecologist Dr Ruth Bartlett (Auckland) to be called by Meridian to give evidence.

Quote of the day: "[people] may be affected by the fact that you can get up close and personal with [the wind farm]. It's like going to the airport on a Sunday afternoon to watch the planes take off". - Central Otago District Council lawyer Graeme Todd.


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