Energy giant AGL has suspended plans to build a controversial 48-turbine wind farm in Victoria’s east.
Although the energy company said the move was purely a business decision, Nationals leader Peter Ryan hailed the pullout as a community victory.
“I think that (AGL) is conscious of the enormity of the opposition generated from Gippslanders,” said Mr Ryan, whose seat of South Gippsland takes in the proposed Dollar wind farm.
The AGL backdown came more than three years after the company first sought approval for the wind farm, which was to have been built near the communities of Dollar, Meeniyan, Dumbalk, Foster and Stony Creek.
Planning Minister Rob Hulls had not yet decided whether to grant the approval, and AGL’s decision will spare the Bracks Government a headache in the lead-up to the November 25 poll.
AGL spokeswoman Jane Counsel insisted yesterday that the decision to suspend the Dollar proposal was a commercial one. The company wanted to focus on a much larger 183-turbine wind farm – which has already been given government approval – to be developed between Macarthur and Hawkesdale in western Victoria.
“We have got a fair amount on our plate right now and, with Macarthur getting the development approval last week, it is a matter of having to decide what our priorities are,” Ms Counsel said. “This is not, by any means, a final decision. We are just putting the planning process on hold because of a number of more pressing priorities.”
Mr Ryan called on the company yesterday to completely abandon the Dollar project, given the overwhelming community opposition.
According to government figures, there were 126 houses within 2 1/2km of the proposed Dollar wind farm, but no houses are within 2km of the Macarthur proposal.
There were more than 1500 objections lodged against the Dollar proposal. The wind farm would have contributed 79MW towards the Victorian Government’s target of creating 1000MW of wind energy by 2010.
Mr Hulls had been under attack from both Mr Ryan and federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell for delaying his decision on whether to grant approval to the project, with a planning panel having completed its work in May last year.
AGL was saying as recently as mid-August that it was still considering its commitment to the Dollar project.
Mr Ryan slammed Labor for failing to listen to community opposition.
“It’s a pity that it has taken a commercial decision by AGL for the project to be suspended … if the Bracks Government had any credibility on this issue it would have already pulled the plug.”
By Natasha Robinson
Additional reporting: AAP
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