Frost fan hearing adjourned

IAN ALLEN
Last updated 12:00 29/11/2012

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A council hearing into a Marlborough winery's plans to build six new frost fans close to neighbouring properties has been adjourned so the parties involved can look for a compromise.

Delegat's Wine Estate Ltd wants to erect and operate the 10.5-metre steel frost fans at a vineyard in the lower Awatere Valley.

However, neighbours and owners of Oak Tree Cottage, Russell and Nicola Kerslake, say the structures will damage the visual impact of their property, which doubles as their home and business.

Marlborough District Council hearing commissioner Murray Hunt asked the two parties to negotiate a deal, which could include the winery replacing about 200 metres of trees that act as a screening between the historic cob cottage and the vineyard.

The existing trees will be removed during winter because they have developed canker disease caused by fungi.

The hearing at the council chambers yesterday heard how Oak Tree Cottage, at the corner of Linton Rd and Redwood Pass Rd, was zoned as rural township under the Wairau/Awatere Resource Management Plan.

This meant wind machines could not be closer than 500 metres to the rural township zone boundary without a resource consent.

Delegat's Wine Estate Ltd wants to erect a frost fan just 95 metres from the boundary, or 268 metres from the Kerslake property.

Mr Hunt said the 500m buffer zone was not a definitive "line in the sand" but a trigger to look at other factors such as noise and visual impacts.

Acoustic engineer Nevil Hegley said the extra six frost fans would cause at most one added decibel of sound, which would not be audible.

Council environmental health officer Gina Ferguson agreed with his report.

Land surveyor Tony Haswell, representing the Kerslakes, said their objection was not related to noise but to the visual damage caused by the fans.

Frost fans normally operated at night, and at minimal times of the year, which did not affect their business as a wedding or private function venue, Mr Haswell said.

The Kerslakes would even prefer low-flying helicopter frost protection despite their noise being more intrusive because their use was minimal, he said.

Russell Kerslake said the visual aspect of their business was huge and the surrounding vineyards were "encroaching on our bubble too much".

Delegat's grower business development manager Rengasamy Balasubramaniam said the vineyard was in a predominantly rural area and the visual impact of six frost fans was unlikely to be worse than large grain silos or hay barns that were also 10 metres high.

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Mr Hunt said he believed this was the winery's way of saying "be grateful it's only a couple of frost fans".

Dr Balasubramaniam said frost fans were part of the new viticulture landscape and would be more of a talking point than an eyesore.

The company was dedicated to sustainable viticulture and the fans would provide protection for 36 hectares of grapes, he added.

The opposing parties have several days to seek a compromise.

- The Marlborough Express

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