Opponents of a controversial wind farm slated for southwest Victoria have been dealt a blow by the state’s Planning Minister.
Matthew Guy has declared that new guidelines governing turbines’ distance from houses will not apply to the project. A 12-turbine development proposed at The Sisters, 220km from Melbourne, has been stuck in the courts since the local council refused its building application in 2009.
Nearby residents facing the prospect of turbines within 500m of their properties had hoped the Baillieu government’s 2km buffer zone policy would crush the project, but Mr Guy said the ongoing legal process ruled that out.
“There is no doubt there are still a couple of tricky legal situations with some applications that are in train at the moment, and we will leave that to the VCAT (Victorian Civil & Administrative Tribunal) system,” Mr Guy said.
“The Sisters is going through a court proceeding at the moment.
“It would apply on the existing guidelines, the old guidelines.”
The Wind Farm Developments plan would place 135m tall structures around farming land and homes.
The VCAT last year ruled The Sisters should not proceed, backing the Moyne Shire Council’s decision to block it.
The Supreme Court then found VCAT erred by applying 2010 New Zealand noise standards to assess its impact instead of 1998 standards, sending the case back to VCAT for a hearing in June.
Beef farmer Neil Blain, who would have a turbine 450m from his property if The Sisters went ahead, said he remained hopeful that Mr Guy would still help their case, and of a successful VCAT outcome regardless.
“Based on the noise issue alone, I think we’ve got a very good chance,” Mr Blain said. “I would find it hard to believe that the Planning Minister would just say ‘The Sisters wind farm is on its own’. I’m hoping that the minister might say at least that the wind farm has to be set to the 2010 standards.”
David McLaren is fighting the proposal on behalf of his parents, who face the prospect of eight turbines within 1.6km of their house – the closest about 750m away. “As the policy was explained to us previous to the election, it certainly was indicated that the policy would apply to The Sisters wind farm because it hasn’t been approved,” Mr McLaren said.
The Coalition campaigned before the state election on giving local communities “the key role” in approving wind farms. No new wind farms have been put forward since the November poll, but Mr Guy dismissed the industry’s claim that other states now presented better opportunities: “We have always said that we will bring fairness and certainty back to the wind farm approval process and this is the first step.”
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