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Meridian's Hayes windfarm proposal gets another chance

Monday 16th August 2010

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Meridian Energy is “delighted” to have won its High Court appeal allowing it to take its 630 Megawatt Otago wind farm proposal, Project Hayes, back to the Environment Court. 

The decision, released by the Dunedin High Court today, overturns a major change to resource consent assessment methods that could have affected any major infrastructure project. 

Meridian appealed the decision with the backing of other major infrastructure developers, who feared the precedent of a new test that required proof that a proposed development was the best economic alternative relative to any others in the country. 

That hurdle was judged to be impossibly high in many cases, since it would require the identification and evaluation of myriad possible alternative, as well as being an unintended extension of the Resource Management Act.

Instead, the Hayes project is likely to head back into familiar territory of assessing the project on its own merits, with the impact on iconic South Island landscapes being a primary bone of contention.

Meridian would consider the judgment before making further comment, a spokeswoman said. 

However, the chief executive of the New Zealand Wind Energy Association, Fraser Clark, said the judgment was good news for renewable energy projects, especially as the National Energy Strategy was confirming a target of 90% electricity from renewables. 

“To reach that target means we need to be able to look at those projects on their own merits, and in a timely fashion,” he said. “There is still no guarantee this project will receive consent, but it’s whether it’s the right project in the right place, rather than whether its merits are greater or less than others in other locations.”

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