Editorial: Mighty River Power should cut losses

MICHAEL CUMMINGS - EDITOR
Last updated 12:30 23/05/2011
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Just when you thought the protracted Turitea Wind Farm consent saga had finally reached its conclusion, Mighty River Power has breathed new life into it with a request to add a further 12 turbines to its proposal.

OPINION: While Mighty River has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars over many years in pursuit of approval for the project, the time has come for the energy company to cut its losses.

The board of inquiry charged with deciding the consent application heard 10 weeks of evidence over nine months on the 104-turbine proposal, ending in March last year.

It took a further 11 months before its draft decision was released, which saw the number of turbines it would allow cut to just 60. The drawn out and often heated debate had reached a conclusion, it seemed.

Mighty River initially wanted to build a 121-turbine farm, but scaled it back to 104 when it became clear there was no way the board hearing its consent application would approve that many.

The company has suggested a number of times throughout the process that significantly reducing the number of turbines could render the project unviable, but has never specified just how many would have to to be built to make it worth its while.

That might well be because it's impossible to determine a precise figure given the many economic and market variables at play, but it seems just as likely that Mighty River didn't want to be limiting itself. It wanted as many as possible.

The issues surrounding the Turitea project are complex, but essentially boil down to a battle between competing priorities. There are significant benefits to be had from generating wind power in the area, and there are corresponding risks to the environment and quality of life of people living nearby.

To determine the fairest outcome, all the competing interests had to be presented and examined, and a balance between them struck. While the board of inquiry process was long, it covered all the relevant issues, heard submissions from Mighty River and the public, elicited expert testimony, and made a ruling on the appropriate number and placement of turbines.

Yet Mighty River Power remains doggedly uncompromising and seemingly impervious to the legitimate concerns of those who wish to limit the negative impacts of its project.

The time has come for the company to accept it will not get everything it wanted, just as those who staunchly opposed their plans will not get everything they wanted.

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Sixty turbines might not be enough for Mighty River, but the consent process it entered into has ruled that any more would be too many. It must accept that and move forward.

- Manawatu Standard

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