Buffer zone battle continues

By Nigel Billings

Western Bay of Plenty landowners had barely celebrated their transmission line buffer zones win, when Transpower announced its intention to appeal.

The Commissioners rejected Transpower's proposed buffer zones around pylons to the district plan. This decision was a testament to the hard work of Federated Farmers and other landowner groups. If Transpower does appeal the decision, Federated Farmers will strongly support the Western Bay of Plenty District Council to defeat it.

The proposed zones, either side of transmission lines crossing private land, raised the ire of farmers who host the grid for free. They provide Transpower access to the lines, along with the cost of working around the pylons. Therein lies the rub.

When buffer zones were first proposed in rural areas, Federated Farmers wanted to know what were farmers doing that required additional rules to the electrical code of practice for safe distances?

Transpower initially seemed to argue it was a safety issue. This morphed into a planning issue and the possibility of under-build restricting their line access.

Where there are buffer zone proposals, there is little evidence of an under-build problem. Farmers are working well around pylons. Since 2002, newly constructed lines have been compensated and are subject to easement agreements.

But Transpower wants to regulate the network which was built on private land for free. Landowners also worry buffer zones will negate future opportunities for compensation when lines are upgraded.

Federated Farmers is waiting on Waimate District Council's decision on Transpower's proposal. Policy staff are also working with landowners to oppose buffer zones in Whangarei, Gisborne and Rangitikei districts.

- Hamilton News

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