While the National-led Government stumbles blindly along the crooked path towards emissions trading legislation, dragging a naive Maori Party partner with it, there is one piece of news we can rejoice over.

That is the refusal by the Environment Court to allow a whacking great ugly wind farm to be built by Meridian Energy in Central Otago.

Alongside the Environment Court's decision this month after seven weeks of hearings, the emissions trading legislation is a matter of little importance.

Meridian proposed to build 176 wind turbines, each the height of a 30-storey building (160m), over an area of 135sq km on the Lammermoor Range in the uplands of eastern Central Otago.

The wind farm, Meridian said, would ultimately produce 650MW of electricity - enough to power every home in the South Island.

Permission was originally given by commissioners appointed by Central Otago District Council, who came to a majority decision to grant consent to Meridian's Project Hayes plan.

No doubt the commissioners were chosen for their eye to a new revenue stream, but thanks to the sacrificial efforts of a large number of concerned people who formed an organisation called Save Central, an appeal to the Environment Court was mounted.

I thank God for these folk - among them poet Brian Turner, painter Grahame Sydney, soldier, businessman and environmentalist Graye Shattky and former All Blacks David Kirk and Anton Oliver - who have raised and spent tens of thousands of dollars to defend the Lammermoors from an unconscionable act of environmental vandalism.

Their driving force was simply the recognition that if implemented, the scheme would irredeemably sacrifice an outstanding landscape for questionable and overstated short-term benefits and there were other locations, closer to power consumers, where the effects would be less detrimental.

And what a landscape it is. I spent the happiest times of my childhood in Central Otago during summer school holidays over many years and under canvas, and on the rare occasions I visit real New Zealand I can't wait to return to this unique part of our country.

I remember fondly the hours and hours of roaming the hills carrying a .22 rifle and a five-shilling packet of 50 hollow-point bullets, shooting rabbits by the dozen and choosing the best to take back to camp for the pot.

If I were ever in a position to select my last meal, it would be wild rabbit stew with carrots, peas and mashed spuds.

The clarity of the light, the purity of the air, the big, big sky, the sparkling clean water in the ice-fed rivers and streams, the dryness of the atmosphere and the endless stark vistas speak to my spirit as no other place on Earth ever has.

So I rejoice that the windsong of the Central Otago uplands will never be the alien thrum of monstrous power generators but remain the subtle whisper of the breeze through the sparse vegetation, carrying the scent of tussock, wild sage and thyme.

I would love to live out my last years down there, but unfortunately that's way beyond my financial resources.

In its 348-page decision, the Environment Court said it found it extraordinary that in a $2 billion project more effort was not made by Meridian to value the costs and benefits much more thoroughly.

"It is even more remarkable that two governments endorsed the proposal without insisting that Meridian carried out a cost-benefit analysis, or requesting Treasury to do so."

The court concluded: "After weighing all the relevant matters ... we judge that the Meridian project is inappropriate in the outstanding natural landscape of the eastern Central Otago upland landscape and does not achieve sustainable management of the Lammermoor's resources."

That's some compensation for the untold millions of dollars in greenhouse gas penalties the Government's precipitous legislation will commit taxpayers to, for you can be assured that that is where the greatest burden will fall and not on those who produce the carbon, which history will prove is beneficial, not harmful, to the environment.

In any case, the result - if the trading scheme works, which it won't - will be a reduction of a few per cent in New Zealand's .02 per cent contribution to world greenhouse gas emissions.

This legislation is being rushed through in advance of the Copenhagen climate change summit next month. I would have thought the obvious thing to do would be to attend the talks, get an idea of what's going on elsewhere, then come home and make final decisions.

The Government's haste seems to be a hangover from the days of Helen Clark, who was determined that New Zealand be a "world leader" in climate change legislation even though our contribution to world greenhouse emissions is less than minimal.

We seem to be terrified that other countries might see us as remiss if we don't go to Copenhagen with decisions already made. How sad.

garth.george@hotmail.com