Pylon zone plan angers farmers

Last updated 07:38 07/06/2012

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Farmers with pylons on their property are outraged at a bid by Transpower to introduce "buffer zones" around transmission lines to restrict development.

Representatives for the national grid operator spoke about the proposal at the Waimate District Council's district plan hearings yesterday.

Transpower wants the council to introduce "buffer zones", placing restrictions on new development near transmission lines.

The zones would range from 12 metres to 32 metres either side of the lines, depending on the lines' size and strength. Transpower's chief engineer, Bob Simpson, said this would allow it to carry out essential maintenance work, while it did not intend to prevent landowners' existing activities.

However, several farmers argue the proposal amounts to a "land grab" by stealth. More than 30 farmers attended yesterday's hearings.

Miles Anderson, of Southburn, said farmers realised the importance of the national grid but Transpower had not paid its fair share.

"The bulk of Transpower's assets in the country are sited on land seized by the Crown, without reparation, and have no formal arrangements with the landowners." The proposal would remove landowners' ability to fully utilise their property, he said.

"The reduction in landowners' equity in privately-owned land at the stroke of the pen is something we regard as incredibly stupid."

Mr Anderson said Transpower had not talked to landowners about its proposals. "I suggest its corporate motto should be: Transpower – we are shocking."

However, Mr Simpson told the council that new buildings and structures near transmission lines could potentially threaten the grid's security. "Sufficient separation from live equipment must be maintained," he said. "Ideally, it is better to avoid such activities too close to live lines as this minimises the risks to people and property."

Transpower had a duty to adhere to statutory requirements of the national code of compliance, Mr Simpson said.

"The code of compliance does not sufficiently provide for carrying out maintenance safety or ensure people and property are safe from equipment or faults."

South Canterbury Federated Farmers industry manager Bob Douglas said Transpower's proposal would be asking the council to go beyond its scope.

The district council has not made a decision on Transpower's proposal but Deputy Mayor Peter McIlraith asked Mr Simpson whether it would be making similar submissions to other councils.

Mr Simpson confirmed this, saying it was in consultation with the Timaru District Council.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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