Wind farm fight call this week

Project Hayes wind farm opponents Save Central will decide this week whether to pursue the case in the Court of Appeal.

The lobby group, an umbrella group for individuals and environmental groups opposed to the $2 billion project proposed by Meridian Energy, has sought leave from the High Court to take the case to the Court of Appeal, "to keep our options open", Save Central spokesman Graye Shattky said yesterday.

The next round of legal proceedings on the wind farm had been set down for a judicial conference in Dunedin on November 15, to discuss dates and details for an Environment Court hearing, as directed by the High Court.

Resource consents for the wind farm were granted by the Central Otago District Council and Otago Regional Council in 2007.

The decision was appealed to the Environment Court, which decided the adverse effects of the wind farm on the landscape outweighed the potential economic benefits of the project and it cancelled the consents.

That decision was appealed to the High Court by Meridian and the two councils and the court upheld the appeal.

It was sent back to the Environment Court for reconsideration with directions about what further evidence should be presented.

Justices Lester Chisholm and John Fogarty said the Environment Court had "erred in law" when it called for an explicit and comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of alternative sites for the wind farm.

It directed the Environment Court to hear further evidence on the question of alternative locations within the Central Otago district, and assess whether those sites were an efficient use and development of the wind and the land.

Meridian has filed a memorandum to the High Court, seeking clarification of the court's directions to the Environment Court.

In its memorandum, Meridian has suggested changes and additions to those directions.

If Save Central is given leave to take the case to the Court of Appeal, and decides to take that action, the Environment Court hearing will be placed on hold.

Mr Shattky said when the High Court decision was announced last month, Save Central was happy with the decision and content to return to the Environment Court, as directed by the High Court.

"Two weeks ago Meridian filed a memorandum to the High Court and that's caused us to reconsider our legal strategy, and that's currently being reviewed.

"In order to preserve our options, we've sought leave to apply to the Court of Appeal.

"That in no way means that we've made a decision yet on whether we will do that, if leave is granted, but it would keep our options open."

Meridian spokeswoman Claire Shaw yesterday said the company could not comment on Save Central's application.

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

 

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