The Colour of Green

I realise that green is a little bit removed from UV, but this makes me see red …

I was disappointed and puzzled by the decision of the Environment Court to reject Meridian Energy’s proposed Project Hayes wind farm in the Lammermoor Ranges of  Central Otago.  It was a split decision by the triumvirate, none of whom has specific interests in the region affected. Their argument was based on their assessment that the area was significant because of its “outstanding beauty”. Strange, I’ve lived in Central Otago for 30 years, yet prior to Project Hayes, had never heard of this being a “must-see” natural local icon. I wonder why I never went there? Of course the whole Central Otago region qualifies for that superlative, but since the Lammermoors are virtually uninhabited and untouched by the trappings of tourism, and abundantly windy, I would have thought it a prime candidate for harnessing wind-energy. Sure it will look different from its present state – for the few who ever go there – but will it necessarily be worse? It may well become a tourist attraction in its own right. And if you want to see what it used to be like, just look in another direction.

The environment court seems to have conveniently forgotten we have a slight problem with energy. We need green energy and we need it soon if we hope to meet our Kyoto-and-beyond targets. The rest of the world woke up to the benefits of wind energy long ago. Germany isn’t known for being particularly windy, but their energy production from wind already exceeds NZ’s total electricity consumption. Why are we so slow? We have perfect conditions to harvest it. And if we don’t get green energy, we’ll pay through our noses, to coin a phrase.  There’s a price to pay either way. But it’s not sufficient to simply deny all such projects and pretend that improved efficiencies will save the day. Realistically, they won’t, at least not in the near future. Especially if you live in Central Otago where it gets cold in the winter.  Perhaps the best energy-efficiency strategy for the government would be to deny people the option of living in places like Central Otago, and require everybody (except the primary producers who keep the country afloat) to live in Auckland. Think of the savings in heating and transport costs. 

Resource consent had previously been granted for the wind farm, which would have provided much-needed greenhouse-friendly energy for decades ahead. That consent had already been a long drawn-out process involving the community board, locals, appeals, and a lot of time and money. It looks like it has all been a waste, and that decisions taken by the affected parties can be rescinded from afar – in this case even despite the obvious national interest.  

I’m heartened to hear that Meridian Energy have decided to appeal the decision. I say good luck to them. If the environment court’s decision is supposed to be green then I must be colour blind.



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2 responses to “The Colour of Green

  1. I can never understand the over-lap between people who call themselves environmentalists but reject the idea of wind farms on account of aesthetics. To me, wind farms are things of beauty, because they are a sign of environmental progress, and of humans learning to harness — rather than exploit — their natural environment.

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