Transpower is potentially souring a traditional goodwill relationship between it and farmers with buffer zones along national grid lines popping up in several district council plans, including the Whangarei District Council (WDC).
Federated Farmers is committed to fighting these plan changes, perceived by many farmers as a land grab. By utilising WDC's District Plan, landowners cannot claim compensation.
Transpower is using the National Policy Statement (NPS) on electricity transmission, saying it needs to stop third parties preventing maintenance, upgrading and development on the grid. However, for rural land at least, there were already guidelines in place.
The Federation's position has always been, where there are individual issues, that both parties need to work together to solve the problem. The implementation of the NPS in council plan changes is not restricted to Northland.
Transpower has responded to farmers' fears with an open letter attempting to soothe concerns, arguing the regulations sought from councils are not as onerous as portrayed in the media.
However, Federated Farmers says, if property rights are to be procured for a commercial electricity enterprise, it should be through negotiation of a formal easement agreement and compensation.
This was achieved on the 400kV line from Whakamaru in Taupo to Otahuhu in Auckland. Transpower protected this line from earthworks, buildings and subdivision by negotiating compensated easement agreements, demonstrating how this system can work.
Federated Farmers has submitted to WDC on the plan change, asking them to remove the buffer zones which will otherwise see farmers shouldering more cost and burden around hosting Transpowers' towers.
Under the new rules, if a farmer wanted to build, develop or convert on his or her farm, within 64 metres of a tower or transmission line, they would need to apply for resource consent through the council, rather than negotiating directly with Transpower.
In Whangarei resource consent deposits cost $1,500, with possible further costs for billing hours and a hearing.
Everyone benefits from power and in the past farmers have supported Transpowers' need for transmission line security. However, farmers host Transpower's towers for free, so new rules undermining their rights need compensation for losing out on opportunities to improve and develop their land are alarming.
In some cases transmission towers have been installed on properties without the proper consent. It is more than cheeky to now ask those farmers to foot a bill they never asked for.
We believe Transpower is trying to save money and time by using council processes.
This is not just a rural issue as urbanites will face the same problem. It serves everyone's purpose to properly discuss concerns and negotiate in good faith.