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Three-year wind battle goes on  

Credit:  Alexandra Weaver, The Warrnambool Standard, www.standard.net.au 11 March 2011 ~~

An opponent of the controversial Sisters wind farm near Terang remains hopeful the project will be crushed within months.

Beef farmer Neil Blain is among a small but passionate group of formal objectors to the development, which involves 12 turbines with a capacity of 29.9 megawatts.

The Sisters’ closest proposed turbine is 450 metres from Mr Blain’s property, while another nearby landholder would have eight towers within 1.6 kilometres of their home.

Last year the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) ruled that the project should not proceed, a move that followed Moyne Shire’s refusal to grant it a planning permit.

Proponent Wind Farm Developments challenged the decision in the Supreme Court, which ruled that VCAT had assessed noise impacts under a 2010 New Zealand standard rather than applying the more lenient 1998 equivalent.

A second VCAT hearing is scheduled for June.

Planning Minister Matthew Guy has said The Sisters, if supported by the tribunal, would be assessed against the former state government’s wind farm guidelines.

New rules implemented last week by Mr Guy have made local councils the responsible authority for all wind farm planning applications and require noise levels to be judged against the 2010 standard.

Guidelines also stipulate that developers must identify all homes within two kilometres of a turbine, with the Coalition set to introduce a mandatory setback later this year.

Mr Blain said VCAT had indicated the impact of noise from the 51-turbine Mortlake wind farm had to be considered as part of The Sisters’ application.

“I think that’s a positive for us,” he said.

“Even if we go back to VCAT and we fight it on the ’98 standard, I still think that we’ve got a very good chance.

“My attitude has been all the way through this that I’m not looking for someone to come and save us – I think we’ll just need to pursue it.”

Mr Blain said project opponents had remained optimistic throughout their battle, which began almost three years ago.

“I think that because we’re going through VCAT for a second time we’re actually more aware of the process and we know what’s going to happen,” he said.

“Obviously we’d all like it to be over, and with a favourable outcome of course, but I think that we’re at the point now where we’ve really got to put our effort into this VCAT (hearing) because really that’s it.”

Environmental group Friends of the Earth has slammed the state government’s new wind farm planning guidelines, warning they will make it harder for clean energy projects to succeed.

“We urge the Coalition to reconsider the most arbitrary aspects of their policy: the creation of ‘no go zones’ and two-kilometre setbacks of wind farms from houses, which are not based on any available evidence about the impact of wind farms,” campaign co-ordinator Cam Walker said.

Source:  Alexandra Weaver, The Warrnambool Standard, www.standard.net.au 11 March 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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