Island wind farm out but options open

The Southland District Council has announced a wind farm is not a viable solution for Stewart Island. Photo: File

WIND farms are out but an alternative energy source for Stewart Island-Rakiura will not be taken off the table, Southland Mayor Gary Tong says.

Last November, Environment Minister David Parker announced a $3.16 million sustainable energy grant from the Provincial Growth Fund to establish a wind farm on the island as an attempt to reduce its reliance on diesel-generated electricity.

Despite months of investigations, the Southland District Council (SDC) announced on Tuesday the project would not go ahead.

Mr Tong said it was disappointing wind farms were not going to be a viable solution.

Part of the reason the halt was called, was insufficient wind on the island to generate a consistent flow of power.

The council was also unable to reach an agreement with the landowners of two private properties considered for the wind farm site, additional access being required for both sites.

“The community will be feeling quite concerned about the costs moving forward. It’s a big cost [diesel-powered electricity] to residents and commercial operators.”

It would be especially hard on the island’s occupants considering 90% of the land mass was national park, had Dark Sky Sanctuary status and was aiming to be predator-free by 2025.

However, it was not to say finding an alternative energy option had been dropped altogether.

“We are certainly not letting it go. There are other means of doing it.”

Stewart Island/Rakiura ward councillor Bruce Ford said the idea of running a cable from the mainland was the “next best step” SDC had considered in 2015 but wrote off as too expensive and time consuming.

Mr Tong agreed the idea should be reconsidered.

South Sea Hotel owner Helen Cave, who also owned Southern Seafoods Ltd, said she knew the wind farm idea was not going to work, so was not disappointed by the announcement.

“It’s a lot of money to be spent on something that has come to nothing but it needed to be investigated.”

As a business owner, the cost of power was an ongoing struggle.

“People have just come to accept the situation but there is a certain amount of frustration.”

She welcomed the idea of running a cable to the island, despite the anticipation it would not be an “easy road”.

The Stewart Island Electrical Supply Authority by SDC and governed by the Stewart Island Community Board exploring alternative energy sources, including hydro, marine and solar for more than 15 years.

All options were considered and ruled out as either lacking efficiency or not being as economic compared to wind power.

A portion of the $3.16 million in funding for the wind farm had been used for pre-development work, while the rest would be returned to central government.