At last Thursday’s ordinary council meeting Upper Lachlan Shire Mayor, Cr Brian McCormack tabled a special Mayoral Minute aimed to place on record Council’s position on wind farms.
His opening sentence was: “I would like to take the opportunity on behalf of the Council to clarify a misapprehension that some members of the community have in regard to Council’s position in regard to wind farms.”
The Minute followed an address to Council from constituent, Humphrey Price Jones, about the cause for concern of the Taralga wind farm EIS, as with that of the Crookwell 11 documents among others.
Mr Price Jones suggested that “these reports seem to be written by monumental incompetents and need to be produced in such a way that they can be viewed with a critical eye in ways that can be clearly understood.”
Mr Price Jones received applause from the gallery for his intense and passionate address.
When Mayor McCormack read his Minute he was met with an angry voices from the packed gallery.
Cr McCormack said he was not specifically suggesting that any person or community is deliberately misrepresenting the views and policies of Council.
“However, there have been occasions in the recent past where there has been an attempt by parties to attribute a position to Council and then to challenge Council on the basis of this position,” he said.
“At times the arguments have been falsely presented in the simplistic terms of – if you don’t support us then you must support the other side. In other words you are either for us or against us.”
“On behalf of Council I wish to place on the record that Council has not adopted a specific position on wind farms. Any party that wishes to attribute to Council a particular position, either in support or in opposition to wind farms is misrepresenting the Council and is engaging in misleading conduct.”
“While Council has not adopted a position on wind farms under legislation it is required to deal with development applications which propose to establish them. Members of the community, including persons seeking to oppose the spread of wind farms, should bear in mind that Council as a consent authority, does not have the legal authority to refuse to deal with the development application.”
Subject to the development application complying with the law it must be considered in accordance with the appropriate legislation. Council has no discretion in regard to this, but Council has adopted a Development Control Plan – Wind Power Generation on September 22 2005 to use in Council’s own assessment of wind farm applications.”
At one point the strident yelling from the gallery was so disarming the Mayor said, “If you don’t want to listen to me I will clear the gallery.”
Mayor McCormack said: “it was important for members of the community to appreciate that once the Minister calls in a development application as a Major Project then Council has no authority or capacity to make decisions in regard to that development application – the Minister becomes the consent authority. In this situation Council can make a submission but has no capacity to influence the determination – it is the hands of the Minister.”
The Mayor appreciated that some residents and members of community groups will have strong views on wind farm development applications and the proposed development of wind farms is a contentious issue for our community. He said robust debate is an important part of our local government democratic tradition.
“It is the belief of Council that open and fair debate promotes good public policy decision making, therefore Council encourages debate on the issue of wind farms.”
“At the same time Council would request that those persons and groups participating in the public debate acknowledge and respect the views of other parties who may hold a differing position on the issue.”
“A major concern of the Council is that the failure to conduct the public debate over wind farms in an appropriate manner could lead to long term division within the community.”
He also requested on behalf of his fellow Councillors that the debate is conducted in a fair manner.
The Mayoral Minute finished with the words: “Please – do not seek to attribute to Council a position which Council has not and will not be adopting.”
The conclusion of the Mayoral Minute had fellow councillors in a mixed debate, some far from supporting the Minute.
Cr John Shaw expressed his concern to the Mayor.
“I’m not sure we can support this – it is your views, maybe not all of ours.”
Cr John Coombs challenged the process of the presentation of the Minute pointing out that no copies were provided to other Councillors.
“I find it bizarre that it can be read the way it was. It is unrealistic that Council respond immediately and be asked to indorse it,” he said.
“It is wrong to suggest that this Council, as it is currently constituted, be wrong to assume that they are supportive of wind farms. I think it does nothing for the relationship with Council and the residents of the shire.”
It was resolved Cr Molony and seconded by Cr Shaw that voting on the Mayoral Minute be deferred to the October meeting of Council to be held on October 26, 2006.
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