Wellington Scoop

West Wind celebrates before it’s finished

By Jenny Jorgensen
Meridian Energy is conducting a “West Wind First Power ceremony” on Quartz Hill at Makara on Wednesday. Dignitaries such as the Prime Minister will be present. But why is this ceremony taking place now, when only a quarter of the development has been built?

Previously in New Zealand for Meridian’s wind farm projects, this ceremony takes place on completion of the wind farm.

Only a few of the turbines that could either significantly or severely affect residents have been constructed.

In the last few days when these turbines were turned on those living nearby were very concerned. In one case the noise penetrated a house with all doors and windows closed, and when a further thirteen turbines are planned by Meridian in the same area, all surrounding homes at less than 2 km distance, this is ringing alarm bells.

When Meridian knows that the similar type, pitch-regulated, variable-speed turbines which TrustPower constructed at Palmerston North proved to be a problem for residents who were 3 km away from them, it is outrageous that turbines at Makara are being built as close as 650 metres from homes. Virtually all of the 140 private homes in Makara are within 2 km of Meridian’s planned West Wind turbines.

Meridian commenced construction immediately it received consent. It has not carried out the requirement for background sound testing that was part of its conditions of consent. Our noise experts expected that such testing would take around 12 months, and testing was not to be contaminated by construction noise. In order for Meridian to establish whether or not it should proceed with turbines close to homes, it should have been essential to establish the background sound levels of all homes that might be adversely affected.

If previous background sound levels and their associated wind speed measurements at residences are not available to the Makara community, then it will be virtually impossible to prove that Meridian has exceeded the noise limits set out in its conditions of consent once the turbines are operating.

Makara Guardians Society represents the overwhelming majority of the Makara community which always opposed the development. The Society has filed an Application for an Enforcement Order seeking that the Environment Court order Meridian carry out the required background sound testing before the wind farm becomes operational.

So why is this ceremony happening now? We believe it is designed:

1. To put pressure on the Court in the up and coming hearing.
2. To open the development before the full impact on residents and the landscape is revealed to dignitaries and the public.

A similar type of ceremony, also we believe designed to place pressure on the Court (we had applied to the Court for a partial re-hearing), was Meridian’s “First Sod Turning Ceremony” for West Wind. Again this seems to have been an unprecedented ceremony. It appeared to have been hurriedly arranged. We always wondered how the representative from Vestas who was photographed turning a “first sod” felt when he discovered that he had been breaking the ground for a Siemens project.

Jenny Jorgensen is president of Makara Guardians Incorporated

Read also:
will Makara provide evidence of risks to human health? This Wellington.Scoop article has attracted a number of comments including from residents living near the Te Apiti windfarm
and also
Noise: the subject on which Makara and Meridian cannot agree