Wind farm consents validity questioned by opponents

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:57 23/01/2013

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The validity of consents allowing Turitea Wind Farm to be built near Palmerston North has been challenged.

Opponents Paul Stichbury and John Adams said board of inquiry chairwoman Shonagh Kenderdine was no longer a judge when the decision was issued.

Her change in status during the inquiry process created "a constitutional crisis", they said, and rendered the board's decision "an illegal, worthless document".

They have complained to the Serious Fraud Office, but it will not investigate. An SFO spokesperson said the issue did not fall within the office's criteria.

The wind farm proposal was "called in" by former minister for the environment Nick Smith and referred to a board of inquiry to hear submissions and decide whether consents should be allowed.

It held months of hearings ending in early 2010, releasing a draft decision in February 2011 in favour of a 61-turbine development by Mighty River Power, and a final decision later in the year.

Mr Stichbury said Judge Kenderdine's warrant to serve as a judge expired on August 6, 2010, after being renewed for the maximum of two two-year terms since her retirement four years earlier.

"She had no legal authority as a judge from that point," he said.

The fact she was allowed to continue to chair the board until the final decision was made was horrifying", and an example of a flawed process.

"This outrageous and arrogant flouting of the law and due process strikes at the very heart of the New Zealand judicial system, the rule of law and our democratic tradition," the men said.

"The shambolic Turitea decision is a stain on this country's totally unjustified international reputation as being corruption-free."

The Resource Management Act says a board of inquiry must be chaired by a current, former or retired Environment Court judge, or a retired High Court judge.

Mighty River Power has not commented on the complaint apart from referring to the Resource Management Act section on the process of appointments to boards of inquiry.

Palmerston North City Council chief executive Paddy Clifford said it was not appropriate for the council, which owns the land where the proposed wind farm would be built, to comment on the process.

Mr Stichbury has also written to current Environment Minister Amy Adams seeking a review of the decision, but her office has yet to reply beyond acknowledging receiving his letter.

Complaints have also been sent to the Commissioner of Police and the Office of the Ombudsmen. Police National Headquarters referred the objectors back to their local police station.

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Palmerston North CIB have no record at this time of a complaint being laid, and the Ombudsmen's office was not able to confirm receipt of the complaint

- Manawatu Standard

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