Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Beautiful all right, but who goes there?

Is there any place on earth where people won’t find a reason to oppose wind turbines?

The Environment Court was told this week that Contact Energy’s proposal to build more than 50 turbines in the Puketoi Range, in the northern Wairarapa, would interfere with a lush, pastoral landscape that was “frozen in time” and epitomised the scenes that sell New Zealand tourism to the world.

I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that. The Puketoi Range is quite dramatic – high, wild and lovely.

But here’s the point. How many people know the Puketoi Range even exists, let alone how to find it? Tucked away in the rugged backblocks east of Woodville and Pahiatua, it must be one of the most sparsely populated places in the North Island. It’s beautiful all right, but few people go there.

(You can get a feel for the landscape by taking the road from Pahiatua to Pongaroa. It’s well worth the drive and you won’t be hassled by traffic. The road passes through Makuri, a charming little settlement nestled in a pretty valley that gives the feeling of being cut off from the outside world.)

If we must have wind turbines (and I gather there’s still a vigorous debate going on about the economics of wind generation), then I would have thought an out-of-the-way place like the Puketoi Range was a pretty good place to put them, provided the locals don’t object.

But then I thought the remote hills above Makara, west of Wellington, were the ideal site for a wind farm too, and look at the hysteria they created there.

2 comments:

scrubone said...

It constantly amazes me how obscure landscapes suddenly become "nationally significant" when someone wants to build a windfarm.

DownUnder Mark said...

It seems to be the typical NIMBY reaction. I personally think some landscapes would be enhanced by the presence of windmills. The ones in the Manawatu make some boring hills look interesting.