THE power to decide where wind farms are built looks set to be wrestled from state control in an effort to reduce community opposition.
Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell said the actions of Labor state governments in thrusting wind farms on country towns was giving windpower a bad name.
His comments came during a meeting of about 150 people strongly opposed to the building of a wind farm at Wilson Head near the West Australian tourist town of Denmark.
Western Australia’s planning minister, Alannah MacTiernan, last week rejected the view of the Denmark Shire Council and approved changes to the southwest town’s planning scheme that would allow a nature reserve to be used for a small windfarm.
A group calling itself the Denmark Community Windfarm Incorporated has been awarded a federal government grant of up to $240,000 to investigate a wind farm to provide economically and environmentally sustainable electricity for the town and surrounding region.
Senator Campbell told the meeting wind energy could be an important part of reducing greenhouse gas reductions but this would not be achieved if communities strongly expressed their views about where wind turbines should be but were then overruled by state governments.
He said he would like to establish the code with the co-operation of the states.
“I believe you can’t have the sort of opposition to wind turbines and wind farms that we’ve had in Victoria, new opposition emerging in South Australia and now opposition in WA, if we genuinely want renewables to be part of our climate-change policy,” he said. “We can’t do it over the wishes of local communities, so we need, as governments, to address these issues seriously. Otherwise wind will get a bad name.”
Senator Campbell said there were powers under federal environmental laws that would prevent wind farms being built where they would put migratory birds at risk or threaten wetlands. “I think it is in everybody’s interests if we are to move to renewable energy and to have wind and solar and other energy sources replacing fossil fuels that wind energy remains popular, that you don’t get this shire-by-shire, coastline-by-coastline opposition to wind energy. And I think a national code is a very good idea.”
Ms MacTiernan said Senator Campbell was taking a purely populist stance as the siting of wind farms was always controversial. “It is the height of hypocrisy,” she said.
Ms MacTiernan said the advice to her was that to be commercially viable, a wind farm at Denmark had to be on the coast rather than inland.
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