Wind farm too noisy - court

Residents complaining the nearby Te Rere Hau Wind Farm is too noisy have been vindicated, with the Environment Court ruling the farm owner breached its resource consent.

Noise predictions supplied by NZ Windfarms were wrong.

In a potentially precedent-setting decision released yesterday, the court ruled the noise effects on residents were "considerably greater" than those predicted in the resource consent application.

This put the 97-turbine wind farm on the Tararua Range in breach of its resource consent to such an extent that Palmerston North City Council could now choose to review its noise consent conditions.

Bob Stewart lives on Pahiatua Track near the wind farm and said he was pleased the court had recognised residents' concerns.

"What we were hit with in terms of noise was quite different to what the application said it would be," Mr Stewart said.

"It's vindicated the residents' concerns. It's some comfort to know we're not just a bunch of complainers with no grounds [to complain on]."

Mr Stewart said the ruling had made it clear assessments of the effects on the environment produced by those wanting consent for wind farms "needed to be accurate".

"Hopefully it will be a wake-up call to other applicants that have to get it correct."

The city council gave NZ Windfarms resource consent for Te Rere Hau in 2005. An extension was later granted.

Since its construction the wind farm has been the source of hundreds of noise complaints by neighbouring residents. That led the council to ask the Environment Court last year whether Te Rere Hau was operating within its resource consent.

Council chief executive Paddy Clifford welcomed the decision and said it was likely to set a precedent as it was one of the few wind farm noise rulings in the country.

"The case and ruling came about because members of the affected community and council staff worked together on this issue. Now that we have the backing of the Environment Court we can start working towards a resolution with NZ Windfarms."

Tararua-Aokautere Guardians president Kevin Low said there was "still room for a standoff" over the resource consent.

"We consider it a very good decision. It's not over yet, of course, in that there's quite a lot of legal stuff the council is going to have to get through.

"By and large it's an excellent outcome."

In a statement released to the stock exchange yesterday, NZ Windfarms said "the Environment Court has made declarations which it expected will require us to take more actions than those planned to date to mitigate noise, including an increase in the monitoring.

"We need to do further work (including consultation with Palmerston North City Council) to understand fully how we address the implications of the Environment Court decision."Chief executive Chris Sadler said he did not want to say more on the matter at this stage. "The next step is for the parties to get together and commence that discussion, we'll proceed down that path."

Council head of planning services Russell O'Leary said council staff would now consider the decision before deciding on any further action.

Manawatu Standard