Minimising Community Opposition to Wind Farm Developments in New Zealand: Opportunities in Renewable Energy Planning
The erection of wind turbines, depending on their location, could significantly interfere with appreciated landscape values of a community, and consequently lead to its objection to a proposed wind energy project. This study explores possible options, which can be applied within the community consultation process to reduce the likelihood of substantial public opposition to wind farm developments in New Zealand. The research topic was chosen to support wind farm planners and decision makers in the consultation process for wind farm developments in order to increase public acceptance of a proposed project, to evaluate possibilities of benefit sharing and public involvement, to select the most appropriate level of community participation in the planning process and consequently to enhance the ability in gaining resource consent under the Resource Management Act 1991. The investigation covers the sequential development of public attitudes towards wind farms, the wider spectrum of public opposition, including vocalised reasons and hidden arguments, community consultation approaches and the different levels of public involvement. The applied methodology for this research comprises a case study approach concerning a New Zealand wind farm including an analysis of submissions made into the resource consent process, follow-up interviews with affected stakeholders, an interview with a wind farm developer, and a comprehensive text analysis. There are various opportunities to increase acceptance of wind farms including aesthetical design, sensitive siting, a pro-active approach, stakeholder analysis, participation and community ownership schemes. The results also demonstrate that increased community involvement may potentially satisfy consulted stakeholders, but could jeopardise obtaining resource consent under the current planning regime.