Official duties get under way with sod-turning for wind farm

Digging it . . . Then Gore mayor-elect Ben Bell (left) and Mercury general manager portfolio Phil Gibson turn the first sod for the Kaiwera Downs wind farm last week. The project will initially have 10 turbines built, enough to power an estimated 20,000 homes or 66,000 electric vehicles. PHOTO: GERARD O’BRIEN

Gore Mayor Ben Bell has successfully accomplished his first assignment in the role.

Mr Bell took part in a sod-turning ceremony last week to mark the official start of the Kaiwera Downs Wind Farm project.

Mercury portfolio general manager Phil Gibson and Mr Bell turned over the ground on Lester and Hilary Dickie’s farm last Thursday.

Three of the 10 turbines, which will be built in the $115 million first stage of the project, are on the couple’s farm.

The turbines will generate enough power to run 20,000 homes or 66,000 electric vehicles.

Mr Gibson said the project was important to the company.

‘‘New Zealand needs to develop renewable generation assets if we’re going to decarbonise the economy.

‘‘This is a premium site and a great opportunity to get going on that.’’

It was expected the wind farm would be operational within 12 months.

The turbines would be 145m high from the ground to blade tip.

Mr Bell said he welcomed the investment in the district.

‘‘The employment and economic activity of this development it will generate hopefully is just fantastic.’’

The turbines would be some of the largest structures in the district and would create a new landscape in the district, he said.

Trustpower first mooted the plan to build the wind farm in about 2007 and was granted Gore District Council resource consent in 2009 amid opposition from neighbouring landowners.

In 2016, Tilt Renewables, the wind energy arm of Trustpower, became a separate entity and in 2021 Mercury Energy bought the Tilt Renewables NZ assets, which included the Kaiwera Downs project and resource consent to build the project.

Gore Council chief executive Steve Parry was involved with the resource consent process in 2009.

He was glad the project had finally started, he said.

‘‘It would have been a travesty to have all that cost, time, energy and passion expended for no result, so this is a momentous day in my view.’’