Proposal taking toll on opponents: spokesman

Speaking out. . . West Catlins Preservation Society spokesman Dean Rabbidge (right) stands in front of society members who met with Contact Energy staff about their concerns regarding the wind farm planned for the hills east of Wyndham. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

Contact Energy invited residents to individually book in for a half an hour time slot to chat about the major wind farm that is planned for east of Wyndham.

About 30 members of the West Catlins Preservation Society turned up last Wednesday to take part in the slot booked by Glenham farmer Dean Rabbidge who is also a spokesman for the society.

After the meeting Mr Rabbidge said he was relieved the proceedings stayed civil.

‘‘We managed to keep control in the room.

‘‘There’s a lot of emotion going on at the moment.’’

People stayed calm but spoke with ‘‘passion’’.

However, the proposal was taking its toll emotionally and mentally on people.

‘‘People are losing sleep over it.

‘‘It’s creating a lot of anxiety.

‘‘It’s just another burden on the rural sector at the moment.’’

Many of the residents had farmed in the area for more than 100 years and it had ‘‘cultural significance’’ for them as well.

‘‘We’re not going anywhere and we’ve come to recognise Slope-down and the West Catlins as our mountain.’’

Minister for the Environment David Parker has agreed the project is eligible for the fast-track consenting process.

Under the fast-tracking system, unless residents were neighbouring landowners they were excluded from submitting during the consent process, Mr Rabbidge said.

‘‘[We are] trying to get our message across [that] we want to be included.’’

Whether the Contact staff who were in the meeting took notice of their viewpoint, he was not sure.

‘‘The cynic in you says they’re just ticking the boxes for their consent process.’’

He did not think Southlanders realised the scale of what could happen if planned wind farm projects went ahead.

‘‘Southland’s going to look like a World War 2 war cemetery shortly with little white crosses all over it and I don’t think anybody wants that for our stunning landscape that’s renowned around the world for its natural beauty.’’

The wind farm is likely to have about 50 turbines and power up to 150,000 households.

It is expected to cost between $700 million to $900 million to build.

Contact head of wind and solar Matthew Cleland said the team met more than 50 people from the community last week. ‘‘Many of the meeting attendees were interested in the landscape impacts, ecology, and the wider benefits ofthe wind farm including job opportunities and boosts to the local economy.

‘‘We do appreciate not everyone is supportive of the wind farm and it’s important to us to keep these conversations going.’’

This was an important renewable electricity project for Southland.

‘‘The region is expected to have significant demand growth in the foreseeable future, and we need to ensure there is enough renewable electricity available to meet these demands.’’