Society granted say on planned wind farm

 West Catlins Preservation Society spokesman Dean Rabbidge. Photo: Sandy Eggleston
West Catlins Preservation Society spokesman Dean Rabbidge. Photo: Sandy Eggleston
The group opposed to a big wind farm planned for Southland will - after all - get its day in the sun.

The West Catlins Preservation Society has been named as one of the parties invited to comment on the planned 300MW wind farm in Slopedown in Southland.

It admits, though, the project is more or less a done deal.

Under the Contact Energy project, up to 55 wind turbines would produce a maximum of 300MW on a site covering 5500ha, east of Wyndham.

The generator applied for fast-track consenting and was granted it last year.

A three-person panel was appointed to oversee the application a couple of months ago and they have gone through the application and sought more information from Contact Energy.

Fast-tracking avoids lengthy hearings and selects those who can make submissions.

The panel has now reached the state when it is asking for comment from various parties.

Along with various councils and all landowners where or near where the wind farm would be located, the West Catlins Preservation Society has also been asked for comment.

Society spokesman Dean Rabbidge said he had not expected the group would be invited to outline its concerns on the power project.

"It was a surprise to me, to be honest. But we have been given the chance to say have a say on our future.

"We need to make it worthwhile and work hard on it."

Comments have to be lodged by July 25.

Mr Rabbidge said there would be financial restrictions on how much the society could do. It had a lawyer among its group but said their payment would probably be a bottle of wine or some chocolates.

He said no matter what the society put forward, he felt it would hold little sway and the project would get the green light.

"The decision is almost a foregone conclusion — it is going ahead. But we are going to want to have a say. Then just wait until we can say ‘we told you so."’

Mr Rabbidge said there was a huge amount of anxiety about the wind farm among his community and people were struggling to sleep at night.

The first stage of the neighbouring Kaiwera Downs wind farm had been opened and Mr Rabbidge said it showed how big these farms were — "they can be seen all over Southland."

He said Southland was sending power north yet Southland people were making the sacrifices for the whole country.

There was a solid group of about a dozen people who were working actively within the group with plenty of support from others.

Waihopai Toetoe Community Board, Invercargill City Council, Clutha District Council, Environment Southland, Gore District Council, Otago Regional Council, Southland District Council and Ngai Tahu have all been invited to make comments.

Contact Energy said it expected a decision to be made on the project by the end of the year.