The purpose of this Briefing Note is to raise awareness and to address some myths relating to the proposed installation of a solar farm in the Helensville catchment.
For context, the Google Maps view below shows the proposed construction area, and its relative size and proximity to the Helensville Township. (Other aerial photos are below.)
Due to the position of the site in a valley and proximity to the township, the limited planting proposed will offer little or no screening and the outlook will be changed from rural to industrial.
This proposal requires change of resource consent from Council under the Resource Management Act and this process is underway.
Originally submitted as limited notification, it was publicly notified in September and public submissions have now closed. Council have since requested additional information from the applicants as a result of the submissions. Next steps are a Council determination and in all likelihood a Hearing at which submitters wishing to, may be heard and present evidence. The timing of these are not yet known.
As current guardians of the land for future generations, the establishment of sustainable energy production is a no brainer for most, but it needs to be undertaken ethically, truly sustainable and should not come at a cost to the environment in which it is constructed.
SO WHAT ARE THE CONCERNS?
It is understood that there were some 65 submissions made to Council, 55 of which were largely against the application. This is not nimby-ism but genuine concern that the application is inadequate and full of inconsistencies. Insufficient information and evidence has been provided, there are a number of issues that are unknown and unquantified making it impossible to make an informed decision as to its construction.
Key areas of concern which remain to be addressed sufficiently by the applicants are:
• Assessments not yet provided, and therefore commentary on these is at best anecdotal or heresay and not the appropriate basis for considered decision making, include: o Ecological Effects – potential ecological effects (for better or
worse) are unknown
o Noise/Acoustic - amplifying effects from its situation in a natural ampitheatre
o Heat – solar farms alter the way incoming energy is reflected back into the atmosphere
o Electromagnetic Fields – and therefore it is impossible to determine whether the standards required of the relevant International Commission or World Health Organisation are met
• Inappropriate use of highly productive land (the practicallitites of the proposal to graze sheep on the land is unsubstantiated and it is contended that, being on a flood plain, will not be viable)
• Flood flow and stormwater and effects from the disruption of the natural flood plain impacting downstream and upstream flooding
• Effects on Rural Character and Amenity Values
• Landscape and Visual Effects – a large firm of Landscape Architects turned down an approach by HES to work on this due to the issues around the flood plan and natural character – a huge red flag
• Inadequate assessment of glint and glare effects on all receptors
• Cultural assessment
• The site has a Natural Resources overlay, namely ‘Quality Sensitive Aquifer Management Areas Overlay [rp] – Kaipara Sand Aquifer’ – this serves a number of bores at properties in the vicinity, no assessment has been undertaken on any impact of the construction on the aquifer.
• With a loophole around the lack of council regulation on solar farms there are many such proposals coming into NZ at the moment – NZ is easy pickings for substandard installations
• Many applications are being sent back to drawing board and some being declined (in NZ and abroad) often around proximity to towns or villages
As can be seen there’s a lot more to it than the impact of views.
TO DISPEL SOME MYTHS
• Cheaper power - it is the applicants intent to sell the power generated to the national grid at spot rates, the volume is such that it is highly unlikely to have any impact on the national power prices and certainly unlikely to mean cheaper electricity for Helensville homes
• Additional jobs generated – the site will be operated remotely on a day to day basis, so it is very possible that less labour will be required than for the current farming activities
• My property won’t be impacted – we don’t know that yet, it might be, directly or indirectly:
o Temperature change – not assessed and therefore unknown
o Noise – these panels move with the position of the sun, there are 8 substations around the site, will the acoustics of the valley mean the town will hear a constant mechanical noise – not assessed and therefore unknown
In response to the concerns and with a daunting path ahead, a group of some 30+ people from Helensville and surrounding areas have formed an Incorporated Society. With the background that the design is poor and not the best that can be done the potential is for a sub standard installation to be imposed on the community. The Incorporated Society’s Purpose is to represent its membership, to identify and mobilise the necessary methods to meet what is coming with sound body of evidence and to ensure the Group is appropriately prepared for the Hearing and any longer term hurdles ahead.
The Incorporated society made a very broad submission which will enable it to raise issues and request more information, be heard at any Hearing and Environment Court if it comes to that. Its first tasks will be to raise the money needed to appoint appropriately qualified experts to support the processes (funding may be available if it proceeds to the
If the above resonates and you find yourself in agreement with the sentiment of the concerns and would like to know more or join the Group please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full details of the application are available from the Council and may be viewed at
• Orewa Service Centre, 50 Centreway Road, Orewa - Monday to Friday 8:30am to 5:00pm.
• Helensville Library, 49 Commercial Road, Helensville – Monday to Friday 9:30am to 5:00pm, and Saturday 9:30am to 4:00pm.
• Auckland Council website: https://
resource-consent/notified-resource-consentap p l i c a t i o n s - o p e n - s u b m i s s i o n s/ P a g e s /ResourceConsentApplication.aspx?itemId=528&applNum=BUN60395894.
The ariel photos below give a representative idea of what the 200 acre site (the equivalent to 100 football pitches). currently used as a productive dairy farm.
Below is an example (as provided by the applicant of the proposed construction) of what it will look like after additional planting is established.