Turbine consent process proceeds

Sick of waiting while the Turitea Wind Farm hangs in limbo, the Palmerston North City Council and Mighty River Power (MRP) are pushing ahead.

The application for the 131-turbine wind farm was lodged on August 14, and the council had expected to publicly notify the application last month.

But, the process stalled after MRP applied to the Environment Minister for a ministerial call-in.

That would have fast-tracked the application, because the resource consent process would be taken out of council's hands, and instead referred directly to either a board of inquiry or the Environment Court.

A project can be called in if it is deemed to be nationally significant.

The election and impending change of government had left the call-in process in limbo, the council said yesterday, and it was going to move ahead in processing the application.

The Environment Ministry had advised the matter would now be considered by the new minister, and a decision was unlikely before the new year, council principal planner Virginia Shaw said.

The call-in application would still be processed, but this got the ball rolling, with the work useful even if the process was called-in.

"It won't be in vain, because any submissions and work that we've done will be transferred to the ministry."

MRP had also requested the application be processed, she said.

The power company's group strategist Neil Williams said the company was pleased with the council's decision, calling it "entirely appropriate".

"While Mighty River Power believes the call-in process is the most appropriate for Turitea, equally the company needs to meet the requirements of council-led notification as we can't presume a ministerial call-in."

Palmerston North Mayor Jono Naylor said the decision would mean less waiting around and uncertainty for the public.

"We believe it's a prudent thing to do. Otherwise the other thing is left hanging in limbo, waiting for the minister to make up his mind."

Plus, moving it ahead could have another bonus, he said.

"With any luck it might send a message to the ministry that they can't just sit on this forever."

Ms Shaw said the council hoped to publicly notify the application by the end of November, opening it up for public submissions.

But, because of the high public interest and the cross-over with the holiday period, the submission period would be for two months, rather than the standard one.

"The eight-week period is important given the complexity of the application and the need to ensure interested parties have time to prepare an effective submission."

If the application is called-in, any submissions will be automatically deemed to have been made to the minister.

If it is not called-in, a hearing before an independent commissioner panel will take place several months after the close of submissions.


Manawatu Standard