Tairāwhiti’s first solar farm project officially underway

Following a sod turning ceremony at Gisborne Airport, Tairāwhiti’s very first solar farm is officially underway.

The ceremony saw staff and the board of Eastland Group and Eastland Generation, who are developing the solar farm, gather with guests including project partner Infratec NZ Ltd, mayor Rehette Stoltz, and representatives from mana whenua Ngai Tāwhiri, Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust, Gisborne Airport, Trust Tairāwhiti and Gisborne District Council.

Morehu Pewhairangi led the karakia, while Stanley Pardoe of Ngai Tāwhiri and Matanuku Mahuika, chair of Eastland Group, symbolically turned over the first sods of earth on the site.

Mr Pardoe commended the initiative, saying: “This is a wonderful day. This project is just the start, and with technology moving forwards no doubt solar farms will eventually be established in other parts of Tairāwhiti.”

Te Ihi o te Ra is a 5.2MW solar farm that will be located in the northeast corner of the Gisborne Airport precinct. It will be made up of around 8,000 bi-facial solar panels covering 6.1 hectares of land.

Using the sun that shines on Tairāwhiti, Te Ihi o te Ra will generate on average 7,343 MWh of renewable energy each year – enough to power the equivalent of 1,000 typical homes.

“Te Ihi o te Ra marks an important and exciting early step towards a sustainable future for Tairāwhiti,” said Eastland Group Chief Operating Officer Energy, Alice Pettigrew. “Once complete, it will contribute to both regional energy capacity and resilience.”

The project is getting underway this month, with contractors mobilising to the site, and it will take around 10 months to complete.

There will also be positive environmental outcomes for the local area. Extensive native plantings along the Waikanae Stream, plus new stock-proof fencing, will help improve the quality of the awa and whenua.

The name of the solar farm has been gifted to the project by Ngai Tāwhiri.

“From our first meeting with Steven Fellows of Eastland Generation, the Ngai Tāwhiri Working Group saw into the future and the transformation ahead of us,” said Thelma Karaitiana. “We liken what we saw to the first glimpse of a sunrise over te Tairāwhiti, a shared anticipation. Our gift to the journey is the name ‘Te Ihi o te Ra’, a time for growth and prosperity.”