Fees for planning applications on huge wind farm projects need to rise by at least 1500 per cent to avoid Moyne Shire Council continuing to be left out of pocket by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
A report to today’s council meeting says fees must rise urgently in the wake of Planning Minister Matthew Guy’s recent announcement that local government would be the planning authority for all wind farms regardless of size.
Moyne already has one of the state’s largest planning workloads for impending wind farms and has been part of deputations to the previous state government for extra staff to cope with the surge in applications in the past decade.
Existing legislation puts a $16,130 cap on what councils can charge to process applications for $50 million-plus projects.
According to a report by the shire’s strategic planning manager Russell Guest a $1 billion wind farm with 140 towers attracts the same planing application fee as a $50m 13-tower project.
“The current maximum fee will not cover the cost of any required peer review of exper reports (such as noise, landscape impact etc), legal costs for advice and/or representation at VCAT or panel,” he said.
“It certainly does not cover the costs of required assessment of development plans and ongoing management issues.”
The shire’s monthly meeting in the Port Fairy Community Services Centre from 3.30pm will be asked to vote on Mr Guest’s recommendation that a letter be sent to Mr Guy saying existing fees for major projects are not adequate and should be increased “as a matter of urgency”.
He recommends application fees be set at $250,000 or 0.5 per cent of a major project cost, which ever is the greatest, but capped at a maximum $500,000 for projects costing $1b or more.
“Resource and administrative costs are a significant issue,” Mr Guest said.
“Council could incur administrative and assessment costs of $250,000 for a project which does not proceed.”
“Expert advice required for council to adequately consider a major project such as wind energy facilities is very expensive and may need to be brought in from other countries.
“Changing the council’s fee structure for major proposals would be a direct measure that would address council’s previously expressed concerns about resource and administrative costs.”
He said a more realistic fee may deter marginal players in the wind farm industry from “wasting ratepayers’ time and money”.
Wind farm projects for Moyne Shire
Approved (not operational): Macarthur (under construction), Purnim, Hawkesdale, Mortons Lane, Ryan Corner, Woorndoo, Woolsthorpe, Mortlake.
Proposed (application yet to be lodged): Darlington.
Feasibility studies: Orford, Caramut, Dundonnell, Tarrone.
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