Meridian quits $2 billion wind project

JOHN EDENS IN QUEENSTOWN
Last updated 15:48 19/01/2012
lammermoor
Fairfax NZ

LAMMERMOOR: Project oponent Grahame Sydney on the Lammermoor Range.

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One of the most controversial energy projects in New Zealand is no more after the withdrawal today of Meridian Energy's $2 billion wind farm proposal.

The 176-turbine, 633 megawatt Project Hayes bid sparked an intense, hard-fought battle by environmentalists in Central Otago and elsewhere when the plan was first announced in 2006.

A lengthy court battle ensued, with a group of environmentalists ultimately successful against the energy giant's bid to build on the remote Lammermoor Range.

Painter Grahame Sydney, poet Brian Turner and former All Black Anton Oliver were among the more high-profile people opposed to the project.

Spokesman for lobby group Save Central, Graye Shattky, said today: ''It's great news.''

Meridian Energy chief executive Mark Binns said the company portfolio had developed considerably and there were other projects with a higher commercial priority than Hayes.

"Meridian now has a number of potential development options that would be progressed ahead of Project Hayes.

"Withdrawing the consent applications is not only the most prudent commercial decision for Meridian, but also avoids prolonging uncertainty about this project for the community and the project's supporters,'' he said.

Mr Binns, who replaced outgoing chief executive Tim Lusk last year, said the decision to withdraw consent applications before the Environment Court was disappointing but it was right.

"Meridian has worked closely with landowners, the community and a range of stakeholders throughout the resource consent process.

"We value the relationships we have developed in Central Otago, and acknowledge and thank everyone who has been involved in the project," he said.

In August 2010, the High Court upheld an appeal by Meridian against the Environment Court's rejection of its planned 176-turbine wind farm in Central Otago.

The High Court directed the Environment Court to rethink its decision cancelling consents for the wind farm.

This prompted fresh legal action to the High Court and Court of Appeal before any reconsideration by the Environment Court.

But today's decision spells the end of Hayes saga.

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