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Thousands bused to wind farm

It was HOG day all over again at Kopua domain grounds last Sunday as seemingly half the Raglan district turned out for Meridian’s community gala day and to tour the energy giant’s new Te Uku wind farm. Project manager Rob Batters likened what he described as a “pretty successful” day to February’s HOG rally at the domain in terms of sheer numbers and logistics.

The 2000 tickets for the tours sold out well ahead of the gala day and busloads of locals along with some out-of-towners were ferried, all day long, the 20 kilometres to and from the turbines high on Wharauroa Plateau. The general feedback, Rob says, was “outstanding” with everyone from children to grandparents overwhelmed at the size of the28-turbine site and the magnitude of the $200 million Meridian/Wel Networks project which was completed a month ago.

Although the weather on Sunday was “reasonably calm”, he adds, people could get an appreciation of what it sounded like to be close to the gently rotating turbine blades, which they stood under as they drank in the expansive views. Wind farm workers acted as tour guides on the buses and on-site to ensure everyone had a “great experience” and had all their queries answered, says Rob, who’s managed the project for Meridian from start to finish.

All proceeds from the $5 tour tickets will be split between the four local schools — Raglan Area, Te Uku, Te Mata and Waitetuna. “It’s great to be able to give back to a community that has been so supportive of the project,” says Rob. The schools along with other local groups also raised their own funds at the community gala day run from Kopua domain in conjunction with the bus tours.

Meantime, Meridian has finally got the go-ahead to complete within the month the wind farm’s planned public cycle and walking track from Te Mata quarry entrance to the top of the plateau. While the road is largely formed already, says Rob, the project is now waiting on pedestrian gates to be installed. The route following parts of both Plateau Road and an old paper road will be great for the “reasonably fit” including kids as young as 10, he reckons. It’s a 6.5km uphill climb from the quarry carpark to the first turbine, then there’s an optional 6km more on to an historic pa site. On completion, the cycle/walk way will be handed over to Waikato District Council to administer.

*Te Uku windf arm is the Waikato’s first, generating 64.4MWs of electricity — enough to power around 30,000 average homes.

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