Graziers in far western NSW say it reeks of hypocrisy: the State Government wants to sell its coal-fired power stations, and then muscle into green energy generation at their expense.
The graziers are furious that the Government plans to revoke pastoral leases on four grazing properties if it approves Australia’s biggest wind farm in the ranges north of Broken Hill.
The energy company Epuron is proposing to build up to 500 massive turbines and this week the Lands Minister, Tony Kelly, said the project had the Government’s in-principle support.
For the affected leaseholders the wind farm offered attractive annual compensation payments from Epuron, but last week they were told at a meeting with the Department of Lands that Epuron could deal only with the Government.
Most land in the area is government-owned but operated through perpetual grazing leases.
Mr Kelly said: “Under the terms of their current leases, the graziers occupying the land cannot negotiate with the company, but the Government is committed to compensation for loss of any leaseholder rights.
“The state needs to provide a secure title to ensure certainty of ongoing tenure and financial security … which will see in excess of $2 billion of private investment in a renewable source of electricity.”
The Nationals MP for Murray-Darling, John Williams, said the leaseholders were set to earn $5000 per year per turbine. Taking back the leases was the “cowardly act” of a greedy government.
Kerry Keady, a solicitor representing three leaseholders, said the revoking of leases “came completely out of left field”.
Mrs Keady said that when Telstra wanted to put up a tower on a western lands lease, the leaseholder had been able to sub-lease the land.
Her clients had negotiated a compensation deal with Epuron for what will be “a very invasive and disruptive development”, she said, and they should not have to settle for less.
Epuron said yesterday: “We have always negotiated with landowners in good faith. Discussions are continuing.”
Daniel Lewis, Regional Reporter
15 February 2008
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