Changes to Victorian wind farm planning guidelines have been cautiously received by developers seeking certainty to pursue major projects.
Amendment VC78, implemented this week by Planning Minister Matthew Guy, has made local councils the responsible authority for all new wind farm permit applications.
Under the former Labor government projects with a capacity of 30 megawatts or greater were assessed by the planning minister.
“These are the first steps in restoring fairness and certainty to the planning system in respect of wind farms,” Mr Guy said.
As part of the amendment, permit applicants must submit a plan showing all dwellings within two kilometres of a proposed tower.
Mr Guy made no mention, however, of a two-kilometre buffer between turbines and homes put forward by the Coalition before last November’s election.
A spokeswoman for the planning minister said the state government was committed to the setback and would introduce it in a further amendment later this year, along with a shared payment system for certain landholders.
RES Australia plans to build up to 225 turbines south-west of Penshurst and is hoping to submit a permit application by July.
Developer Simon Kerrison said the company was still examining the new wind farm policy and its consequences.
“As far as the Penshurst project goes, we don’t imagine (the amendment) would have a major impact on the project,” he said.
“It’s something we have to take into consideration, particularly the new noise guidelines.”
Wind farms’ noise impacts are to be evaluated under the New Zealand 2010 standard, rather than a former 1998 standard that critics said was not strict enough.
Mr Guy will remain the responsible authority for most projects that have been approved but are yet to be built, with decisions on any minor changes or time extensions to be made with local councils.
Pacific Hydro spokesman Andrew Richards said he was keen to see the government consult with industry as it prepared further wind farm planning rules.
“If (the policy) is brought in to its full extent, then it will have a significant impact on new development,” he said.
“It’s still a little bit frustrating because we’ve just got to wait and see; hopefully we can have a conversation with the government going forward.”
Opposition planning spokesman Brian Tee yesterday said the new guidelines would prompt a spike in carbon emissions.
“The government is making the approval application so cumbersome and bureaucratic that even those communities that want to embrace new clean technology will find it difficult to cut through the red tape,” he said.
“This will cost thousands of jobs in regional Victoria
and will mean Victoria will continue to be dependent on brown coal long into the future.”
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