Planned legal action against a wind farm approved in the final days of the Brumby government has been abandoned.
The action was dropped after it emerged that former Victorian planning minister Justin Madden had blocked any future appeals.
The proposed Moorabool wind farm, consisting of 107 turbines near Ballarat, 90km northwest of Melbourne, received final planning approvals on November 1, the day before Victoria went into caretaker mode for the poll.
Mr Madden, whose failure to consult on planning decisions dogged the Brumby government, appointed a delegate to sign on his behalf because his relatives own property in the Moorabool area.
His aunt by marriage is reportedly expecting German-owned WestWind to build up to six turbines on her property.
Resident Dianne Kirk had planned to appeal against the approval to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, but yesterday she learned Mr Madden had called in the application in February, thus blocking any legal avenues of appeal.
“It’s taken away all our options,” said Ms Kirk, who will have five turbines within a kilometre of her property. “It’s just taken away our civil rights.”
The new Planning Minister, Matthew Guy, condemned Mr Madden’s actions but said they could not be undone.
“It’s indicative of why the last government became so unpopular on planning matters, because it was very clear they had no intent of obtaining community consultation on these wind farm issues,” he said.
“They called it in at two minutes to midnight, and cut out any ability for the community to have an appeal process or any kind of feedback into the application.
“They just don’t get it when it comes to people in regional Victoria who have concerns about a 40-storey turbine being placed within 2km of their homes.”
The new policy requires a 2km buffer between houses and turbines unless separately agreed to by the resident, but is not retrospective for approved wind farms.
Ms Kirk appealed for Mr Guy or new Premier Ted Baillieu to intervene.
The project has split the community, with some residents such as Jim Ranken happy to allow turbines on their property. Mr Ranken, who refused to say how many turbines would be built on his sheep property or what he would be paid by WestWind, does not live on the site but said the “silent majority” welcomed the project.
Moorabool Shire Mayor Pat Toohey said he was disappointed Mr Madden had signed off on the wind farm “about an hour from caretaker mode”.
“Instead of a good planning process, that was a government in panic chasing green votes,” Mr Toohey said.
The council has written its own wind farm guidelines.
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