Plug pulled on Project Hayes

January 20, 2012

After six years of environmental hearings, Meridian Energy has pulled the plug on its Project Hayes wind farm on the Lammermoor Range.

Project Hayes was by far the country’s largest wind farm project when it was first announced, and envisaged a 633.3 Megawatt station with 176 turbines stretching across a plain that is both barren and ecologically important. 

Lovers of the sparsely populated area’s vast landscapes, including former All Black Anton Oliver and painter Grahame Sidney, were among chief opponents of the project, and were the reason the Environment Court turned down Meridian’s application in 2006.

The resource consents granted in 2007 were challenged in the Environment Court, which cancelled them, leading Meridian to appeal the cancellation in a process that had been ongoing until today.  . .

It appears Binns viewed Project Hayes as an expensive legacy issue, which was potentially unwinnable, and he said the economics of the project had become less attractive.

“Our portfolio has developed considerably and our review showed us that other projects now are a higher commercial priority than Project Hayes,” said Binns in a statement.

“Meridian now has a number of potential development options that would be progressed ahead of Project Hayes. Withdrawing the consent applications is not only the most prudent commercial decision for Meridian, but also avoids prolonging uncertainty about this project for the community and the project’s supporters.”

Total costs over the nearly six years the issue has been live amounted to $8.8 million, of which $7.2 million would be written off in the forthcoming annual accounts.

It was a very controversial project which attracted strong opposition but it also had strong support from some locals.

It has cost the company a lot of money and it was also expensive for those opposing it.

The project was started by then- CEO Keith Turner who was also behind Project Aqua, Meridian’s attempt at hydro development on the Lower Waitaki River. Investigations for that were estiamted to have cost the comapny about $95 million before it was canned, although that included purchases of land which were subsequently sold at a profit.

One of the arguments for partial privatisation is that it will impose more rigor on companies which are now 100% owned by the state.

I wonder if the company would have attempted to do this development had a minority shareholding been in private hands and whether that would make a difference in future?


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