Attitudes of non-submitters towards windfarms
Principal Investigators: Dr Janet Stephenson , Dr Rob Lawson (formerly Department of Marketing)
Staff Involved: Janet Stephenson
This research explored the differences between submitters and non-submitters to wind farms. The research questions were developed in consultation with the New Zealand Wind Energy Association. We conducted thirty three interviews with residents in the vicinity of two wind farm proposals at Kaiwera Downs in Southland and Mill Creek in Wellington. Twenty interviews were with submitters (opposing and supporting) and thirteen with non-submitters. The interviews yielded both quantitative and qualitative data. Evidence from these interviews leads us to following conclusions in relation to the questions guiding this research.
Our findings show no evidence of a 'silent majority' of non-submitters in support the wind farms. Most of the non-submitters were ambivalent, with the remainder spread between supporting and opposing, and even then, usually in a qualified sense.
There is evidence to suggest that submitters and non-submitters views are different. Non-submitters have less extreme views than submitters, are not as concerned as submitters about the potential negative aspects of wind farms, and less enthusiastic about the potential positive aspects.
Most of the non-submitters' stated reasons for not submitting related to personal circumstances, or to lack of impact of the development on them personally. Some other factors, such as lack of information, a sense of powerlessness, and perceptions about local benefits, also seem to play a role.
Both submitters and non-submitters have a similar range of opinions on the complexity of the submissions process, and while there is clearly value in simple explanatory material on how to make submissions being widely available, the process itself does not appear to be a significant barrier to making submissions.
Actions that may encourage more non-submitters to make submissions include greater clarity on who can make submissions, more widely available information on a proposal, earlier engagement with the public so that they feel that they can have some influence on the design of the project, and ensuring benefits flow back to the community.
Social surveys may be useful in identifying issues and interests for the 'silent majority' who would not usually attend consultation events or make submissions. If carried out early in the process, this would have the added benefit of creating a platform for responding to community-wide concerns through project design and mitigation.