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Push for more local say on windfarms

Local councils have no power over major projects, such as wind farms, being constructed in the shire thanks to NSW state planning policy.

The offending part of the policy, Part 3A, states that if a project is of state or regional planning significance it won’t be subject to any local government planning procedures.

Yass Valley Council’s General Manager David Rowe said there needed to be some changes to the way these significant developments are administered. “There are no requirements to listen to local government at all,” Mr Rowe said.

“Council can lodge a submission in relation to state significant development however there is no guarantee it will be listened to.”

The Local Government and Shires Association of NSW (LGSA) are lobbying state election candidates to review these planning policies. The Coalition and Greens have made a commitment to the LGSA to return planning decisions to local communities.

The Shires Association however, have not received the timeline in the promise by the Coalition to scrap Part 3A of the planning laws.

“The Coalition’s proposition to return planning powers to local communities is great news for councils, but we all know the devil is in the detail – and we need to see the detail,” president of the LGA Cr Keith Rhoades said.

Incumbent member for Burrinjuck Katrina Hodgkinson said Part 3A of the planning legislation has been grossly misused and that applications, especially in relation to wind farms, should be put on hold until after the election. “It is very important that local communities be given a say about what is to be built in their area,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

The NSW Labor Government said they would continue to support the planning framework as it is “a key means for government to facilitate jobs and housing growth in NSW,” a letter from Premier Kristina Keneally said.

“The LGSA must recognise that many shires and councils simply do not have the capacity to deal with these large scale projects,” Ms Keneally said.

Mr Rowe said that council wouldn’t want to take over the approval process for major projects but didn’t want to be completely overlooked in the planning process.

“Local councils need to be able to have more say about the issues that will affect local communities,” he said.

The Greens have also promised the LGSA they will repeal Part 3A as it’s something on which they have been campaigning for a long time.

“Part 3A is widely and correctly viewed as corrupt and corrupting of the planning process because it allows for ad hoc, discretionary, and unaccountable decision making,” the Greens said in their reply to the LGSA’s election priorities.

Local Greens candidate Iain Fyfe said an independent commission would be put in place to ensure that corruption doesn’t occur.

“We have to redefine what the scope of state significant is,” he said.

“Key infrastructure projects would be looked at by the state but smaller projects like shopping centres… would be more locally determined.”

The Christian Democratic Party has also said they would like to see more emphasis put on the local government perspective.