Wind farm threatened by climate penalty

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - Under climate change discussion papers published earlier this year, the Government proposed a series of measures to discourage deforestation, including tradeable permits and flat charges for tree removal.

Greater Wellington regional council is proposing to build 30 three-megawatt turbines on ridges at Puketiro, northeast of Pauatahanui, by 2010. Between 100 and 120 hectares of pine trees would be cut down for the wind farm, the environmental cost of which, according to the Government proposals, would be $13,000 a hectare.

If such a charge were imposed on Puketiro, the regional council would be liable for a bill of between $1.3million and $1.5 million.

The council says it is ludicrous that a project to produce renewable energy should be threatened with climate change charges.

A council briefing paper says paying the Government to create a wind farm would be "bizarre". If such a charge were imposed, council officers could recommend the project be stopped. "Hopefully a more reasoned approach by the Government will prevail."

Forestry Minister Jim Anderton said the Government had a preference for tradeable permits, by which forestry owners pay to change land use, over a flat deforestation charge. It was still working through climate change policy and would not want renewable energy projects "stymied when the net gain for New Zealand is positive".

Council utility services committee chairman Rex Kirton said that, though the Government had not finalised its deforestation management plan, a $1.5 million charge was "just ludicrous". "You are being penalised for the removal of some junky trees."

Water supply, parks and forests divisional manager Murray Kennedy said the Government had not replied to a request for Puketiro to be exempt from any charges. "The sooner a decision is made by the Government, we would welcome it."

Wind farm specialist RES has been contracted to develop the project. Mr Kennedy would not say how much it would cost the council to cancel the contract.


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