AWARDS FINALIST: Meridian – Harapaki wind farm

1 Jul 2024

Meridian Energy’s Harapaki wind farm project in Hawke’s Bay stands as a shining example of social procurement in New Zealand’s renewable energy sector.

Scheduled for completion in late July, the project’s aim was to be the most sustainable wind farm in Aotearoa – including social, environmental, cultural, and economic aspects.

It not only achieved this, it also significantly benefitted local communities, employees, and the environment through its innovative practices.

Sustainability management plan, KPIs

The project’s objectives were set out in its sustainability management plan.

Key performance indicators focused on local employment, local spending, cultural monitoring, waste reduction, and ensuring ethical practices among suppliers.

Many of these KPIs were exceeded, setting new standards that Meridian is already applying to other projects.

Local employment, at 47 per cent, surpassed its 40 per cent target. Local spend at 15 per cent easily exceeded the initial 5 per cent goal and meant more than $110 million had been spent locally by the end of construction.

The project also prioritised waste management, with 86 per cent of waste diverted from landfill. Initiatives included offering tarps, leftover nova coils, and fence posts to local residents, which significantly reduced waste and supported community needs.

Cyclone Gabrielle

Harapaki’s impact extended beyond sustainable practices, especially in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle.

The wind farm site became a hub for disaster response, with Meridian delivering essential supplies – medicine, food, water, fuel – to affected communities by helicopter. The project team also assisted in repairing roads and stabilising bridges.

As a result, Meridian and the local community built a very close relationship. Meridian attended various community meetings, including a community day where it and contractor Hicks handed out wind-up radios and torches.

This extraordinary effort was recognised by Red Cross, which awarded Meridian a silver medal.

The local community will further benefit from Meridian’s Power Up community fund.

Over the past 16 years, this fund has contributed almost $9.7 million (currently some $557,000 annually) to 1323 community-led projects, promoting environmental, cultural, voluntary, education and health initiatives.

Innovative social procurement practices

Meridian’s approach to social procurement has set new standards within the industry. By embedding social procurement principles in its sustainable infrastructure framework, the company has ensured that these practices are integral to all future projects.

This framework, informed by lessons learned from the Harapaki project, emphasises the importance of working with suppliers who uphold high ethical standards and contribute positively to local communities.

The company’s efforts in supplier engagement include adherence to its Modern Slavery Statement and the completion of its first human rights assessment, broadening its scope beyond modern slavery to ensure comprehensive ethical practices across its supply chain.

Employee engagement

The Harapaki project has not only influenced local communities but also engaged Meridian’s employees.

The establishment of a sustainability and environment team within Meridian’s development business unit highlights the importance with which it views having the proper capacity and skills in place to embed sustainable practices – including social procurement principles – at a project level.

Future development

Meridian’s Harapaki wind farm exemplifies how social procurement can drive positive change.

Through its innovative approach, the project has delivered substantial benefits to the local community, set new benchmarks for sustainability, and reinforced Meridian’s commitment to clean energy for a fairer and healthier world.

The Social Procurement Award category is sponsored by the BlueFloat Energy and Elemental Group partnership.