A $1.6 billion wind farm in Wairarapa looks set to go ahead, after getting the initial tick from a resource consent hearing.
But the maximum height of its turbines is likely to drop by 20 metres.
Genesis Energy's Castle Hill Wind Farm will contain up to 286 turbines and provide power for up to 370,000 homes.
In a preliminary decision issued yesterday, the independent panel of three hearing commissioners indicated consent was likely to be granted for the project.
However, they also recommended further work by Genesis Energy to assess and reduce the project's visual impacts before a final decision can be issued.
As planned, the turbines would stand up to 155m high. However, the commissioners said they would prefer them at 135m.
"We note that with the potential for up to 286 turbines, this project would still be the largest wind farm project in the southern hemisphere.
"We do not consider that the restrictions we are tentatively proposing would greatly diminish it."
David Nelson, chairman of the Castle Hill Wind Farm Community Action Group, which is opposing the wind farm, said the commissioners had listened to the concerns of both the group and submitters.
There was still a lot of work to be done to reduce the effects of the wind farm, he said.
Other local residents said they wanted to have a chance to read the 172-page report before commenting.
The preliminary decision gave an indication of the probable final consent call, but was not the final green light.
It found the wind farm would provide economic and social benefits, both nationally and regionally.
The commissioners also found adverse effects would be more than minor, and in some cases significant.
More should be done to reduce the wind farm's visual effects, especially for properties within five kilometres of the turbines.
The consent would set conditions to lessen various construction effects, including traffic, earthworks and stream works.
The turbines would be spread over 30,000 hectares.
The wind farm sites are proposed for a remote, sparsely populated area north of Masterton, including the settlements of Tinui, Pongaroa and Alfredton.
The project is estimated to provide 185 jobs during construction, 40 continuing jobs, and bring $247 million into the Masterton and Tararua districts.
Last month Genesis chief executive Albert Brantley said that irrespective of the resource consent process, the company was unlikely to build any new generation projects for years.
When it did there was no guarantee the next project would be Castle Hill.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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