New Zealand wind farm development has been concentrated in the country's North Island, but this is set to change with the commissioning of the South Island's first large project and others under way. The 29 Vestas 2 MW turbines that make up Meridian Energy's NZ$100 million White Hill project are now operational. The official opening last month, headed by the country's prime minister, Helen Clark, was in the midst of a blizzard. Apart from the weather, White Hill had a clean run-up, with relatively few objections to its plans, unlike Meridian's proposed Project Hayes wind farm further north in Central Otago, which has seen high-profile national figures in the arts and sports join forces to oppose the development. Noted landscape painter Grahame Sydney, poet Brian Turner and former All Black rugby player Anton Oliver have all spoken out against the project at resource consent hearings. Of the thousand or so submissions on the plan, support and opposition have run close to half and half. Of particular concern is the large scale nature of the project. Up to 176 wind turbines are planned for Lammermoor Range, considered iconic for its stark beauty. If the NZ$2 billion project goes ahead as planned, it will be the largest in New Zealand at 630 MW and among the largest in the world. Revelations of a possible extension of 113 further turbines were greeted with dismay by opponents. Industry analysts have commented on the irony that it appears easier in New Zealand to get consent for a gas-powered thermal station than for a wind farm producing renewable energy. There have been calls for government to get involved in areas where national interests are said to outweigh local district policies.
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