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Waikato Wind Farm Raises Issue For Businessman Farmer

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

By Pam Graham of NZPA

Wellington, May 8 NZPA - Businessman Ross Townshend admits there's an element of a "not in my backyard" position in his opposition to a wind farm in the Waikato.

His grumpiness about the project extends to calling former Environment Minister Trevor Mallard a duck and Contact Energy, one of our largest energy companies, incompetent.

His position on wind farms generally is that they are an expensive form of energy generation getting a green light because of green politics.

And, the royalties of as much as $30,000 a year per turbine amount to a "life changing" event for some farmers signing up to them.

He has said no to turbines on his farm and he doesn't want a view of 17 of them on a hillside nearby either.

The Hauauru ma Raki wind farm proposed by Contact Energy could have 218 wind turbines and cost more than $1 billion.

Twenty land owners had joined the project at it launch. Contact has said the project will inject $100 million into the local economy during construction and employ 150 and improve roads.

But the point Mr Townshend is making is that the process for getting big projects through has to be credible.

As a former chief executive of meat company Affco and executive in the dairy industry he was involved in expensive and long Resource Management Act processes to get big projects through.

He is part of the business community that has long argued that the Resource Management Act is choking economic growth and badly in need of reform.

Now he is objecting to Mr Mallard fast-tracking the wind farm approval process by a "call-in" to circumvent the Act.

A Board of Inquiry comprising four people is set up under this process and their decision can only be appealed on points of law.

The danger with this process is that the board is seen as a Kangaroo Court.

"I don't doubt that the RMA needed an overhaul," said Mr Townshend. But he said the call-in process was part of the disease not the cure. He said a conventional RMA process may have let this project through. "I've been through some pretty big ones and they were expensive processes and time consuming but we won three out of three," he said of his time in the dairy industry.

His greatest hope is that Contact is doing a poor job of presenting to the board and is damaging its own position.

He said he was being honest about his Nimby position but happened to believe the whole project was "a dumb thing for New Zealand".

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