NZX-listed merchant wind generator NZ Windfarms (NWF) has achieved a key strategic milestone in terms of its resource consents related to longstanding noise issues at its Te Re Hau Wind Farm adjacent to Palmerston North.
Under section 128 of the RMA independent hearing commissions were appointed to consider the noise management conditions following drawn-out legal processes over the last five years.
On the 27 November 2017 Commissioners released their findings. The decision confirms a range of conditions proposed by NWF following consultation with residents to delay the start-up of 3 wind turbines when the wind is light and in the south easterly quarter during summer evenings and weekends. The turbines start-up has been increased from winds of 6 m/s to 9 m/s.
Following a decision by commissioners in late November around new noise conditions, no valid appeals have been lodged.
NWF has worked closely with stakeholders to agree on new operating parameters, centred around three turbines located close to a group of residences. The company proposed a higher turbine cut-in wind speed and a gearbox modification to limit noise during low wind south-easterly conditions. The commissioners’ decision supported this approach. The gearbox changes were completed in the week following the decision.
A renewed commitment to positive engagement with the local community follows the appointment of a new board in 2016 and their appointment of a new chief executive, John Worth, in early 2017. Board Chairman Rodger Kerr-Newell noted that the decision was evidence that a collaborative approach was essential in building a community license to operate. “We’re absolutely resolved to continue working closely with our neighbours,” said Kerr-Newell.
Alongside the new consent conditions, the company remains committed to its voluntary noise curtailment regime in place since July that aims to further reduce noise levels.
The resolution of a longstanding noise issue is positive for NWF, the local community and the wind industry and reflects the importance of positive engagement to develop sustainable operational outcomes that ensure the amenity values and effects on neighbours are appropriately recognised. NZX stock has rallied from around 8 cents per share in early 2017 to 17 cents per share in January 2018.