Commissioners appointed by Hurunui District Council have rejected a wind farm planned for a "nationally outstanding" North Canterbury landscape.
MainPower planned to build a wind farm worth up to $200 million on Mt Cass, east of Waipara. Commissioners Paul Rogers, Paul Thomas and Dean Chrystal said a wind farm on the ridge between Mt Cass and Totara Peak would be "inappropriate" because it would degrade an outstanding natural feature of national significance. Environmental groups called the decision a win for conservation.
In another blow for the wind power industry, Contact Energy's $500m Waitahora project in Hawke's Bay was rejected by council-appointed commissioners last week.
New Zealand Wind Energy Association chief executive Fraser Clark said in the past three or four years most wind farm resource consents had been approved at council level. "It's certainly a blow to see these two projects declined."
MainPower managing director Allan Berge called the decision a "backward step". The Mt Cass wind farm had the potential to be a significant step toward energy self-sufficiency for the region, he said. The company had not decided whether to appeal.
Forest and Bird South Island field co-ordinator Chris Todd called the decision "a good victory for conservation". "Wind power we support, in principle, but this particular site was so unique and so important it was important the right precedent was set. It is nationally outstanding, very rare."
Mt Cass Protection Society president Alec Ford said the ridge's ecological values could have been destroyed. Expert Colin Burrows had told the hearing "there is no other place in Canterbury with geomorphology like that along the Mt Cass Ridge".