November 30, 2010

Sister wind farm noise level appeal

ALEANDRA WEAVER, The Standard, 30 November 2010

A new chapter could be written in the saga that is The Sisters wind farm if another appeal against the project’s permit refusal goes ahead.

Proponent Wind Farm Developments went to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) in April this year after an application for its 12-turbine project near Terang was rejected by Moyne Shire.

VCAT upheld the project’s rejection due to the noise it was likely to generate but said turbines would not disrupt farming activity or wildlife.

This decision was appealed by Wind Farm Developments, which recently took its case to the Supreme Court.

Moyne Shire strategic planning manager Russell Guest said discussion during the latest hearing centred on the noise standard used by VCAT to assess the wind farm’s impacts.

“There are a set of guidelines that everybody in Victoria has to use to assess any application for a wind farm; in those guidelines it says you measure noise using the New Zealand standard (1998),” he said.

“In March this year they brought out a new one known as the New Zealand standard 2010.”

VCAT upheld Moyne Shire’s permit refusal on the grounds the wind farm would not satisfy the latest standard, though Wind Farm Developments argued its application should have been assessed against the older criteria.

“The problem is that the 2010 (standard) isn’t referred to in the planning guidelines, so that was the legal challenge,” Mr Guest said.

“(Lawyers for) both parties – the wind farm developer and the council – upon considering the likely outcome, came to the agreement that VCAT had got it wrong and that the technical challenge would succeed.”

The 2010 New Zealand standard retains the 1998 version’s noise limits but also introduces a stricter limit where planning authorities identify the need for “a higher degree of protection of acoustic amenity”.

Wind Farm Developments asked that the matter return to VCAT and be heard by a new panel, with Moyne Shire requesting that the only issues considered be the wind farm’s noise and the impact of additional turbines at the nearby Mortlake South project.

Associate Justice Melissa Daly is now considering the request.

“(Ms Daly) has looked at the agreement to go back to VCAT and she has to agree that that’s the right thing to do,” Mr Guest said.

“Once it was apparent that the lawyers agreed there was a legal, technical error, then there was no point in pushing ahead with a full challenge – it’s just going to waste time and money.”

Mr Guest said the shire still believed it had a solid case for refusing a permit for The Sisters, particularly given the proximity of the Mortlake South project.

“Hopefully the earliest date (for a resolution) would be February or March next year, but it might be longer,” he said.

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