Project Hayes Stalled

Writer: Manish Verma The Environment Court gave a big blow to Meridian Energy when it refused to give consent for what would have been New Zealand's biggest wind farm, Project Hayes, in Central Otago.

In its decision, the court stressed the risk to the landscape of Lammermoor Range, 70km northwest of Dunedin, and questioned whether there had been sufficient alternative sites considered. The decision is seen as a victory for several high-profile New Zealanders with links to the area, including former All Black Anton Oliver, artist Grahame Sydney, poet laureate Brian Turner and another former All Black and business executive, David Kirk.

The company had planned to build 176 wind turbines over a 92 km² area in the Lammermore Range in Central Otago. The project would have generated 630MW of electricity enough to power every home in the South Island.

Local residents who wanted to protect the tussock-clad ranges from the160m-high turbines and the12m-wide access roads opposed the project and filed an appeal in the Environment Court as soon as the consent was granted to the company in 2006 and 2007. Meridian spokesman Alan Seay said that the company was disappointed by the decision but was still studying the 350-page decision, and was not commenting on whether or on what grounds it might appeal. It has 15 days to lodge an appeal but it may only be on matters of law.