The future of Victoria’s wind farm industry is no clearer after the Baillieu government’s first wind farm approval.
Planning Minister Matthew Guy has approved three turbines for a six-megawatt wind farm at Chepstowe, west of Ballarat, and said the decision was ”consistent with the Victorian government’s wind farm policy”.
The Coalition promised to ”give local communities the key role in deciding where wind farms will go” before last year’s election.
Mr Guy called in the Chepstowe wind farm application from Victoria’s planning tribunal in February.
Residents who live near the site for the new turbines and the local Pyrenees Shire have expressed confusion and disappointment at the decision.
Jenny Bruty’s farm is about three kilometres from where the new turbines will be located and she is very disappointed by the decision. ”It was well over 100 to one; one person wanted them and there were well over 100 against them,” she said.
Ms Bruty, who has lived on the 1000-hectare farm for more than two decades, is concerned about the health and environmental impacts of the turbines, particularly their impact on the Brolga bird population.
David Shapero, managing director of Future Energy, the company behind the Chepstowe wind farm, welcomed the decision. ”The three wind turbines will produce enough energy for over 3000 homes,” he said.
But he said the Baillieu government had to make clearer its intentions regarding new wind farm applications.
”Our belief is that the government seems to be moving towards treating all wind farms, whether it be one turbine or 100 turbines, as the same, which would be illogical,” he said. ”We wait with interest as to their final policy.”
Pyrenees Shire mayor Michael O’Connor said he was disappointed the Planning Minister had intervened and made the final decision on the Chepstowe wind farm.
”Given the minister’s stance on who should be determining wind farms … I am personally a little disappointed that he called this in from VCAT,” he said.
But Cr O’Connor said he supported the state government making wind farm planning decisions, because of resourcing and consistency reasons.
”Our view, and the view of some other councils, is that we don’t particularly want to be the decision-maker for the simple reason we don’t have the resources,” he said.
Mr Guy announced planning changes in March to make local councils the decision makers for wind farm applications of 30 megawatts or more, and any new application would need to identify all residential properties within two kilometres.
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