May 31, 2011

Locals hope reforms take wind out of turbines

Pia Akerman, The Australian, 31 May 2011

A Victorian council battling a wind farm proposal is planning to test in court the Baillieu government’s tougher position on noise emissions from the giant turbines.

Moyne Shire, in the state’s southwest, has been fighting a proposed 12-turbine wind farm at The Sisters since 2009, when it rejected the application from Wind Farm Developments.

Next week it will seek to have the plan dismissed by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal on the basis it contravenes new noise guidelines implemented by the Baillieu government in March.

Moyne strategic planning manager Russell Guest said the council’s legal advice suggested VCAT had to judge the proposal under planning laws as they existed on the date of the hearing.

“When the government introduced all those amendments, they made a specific statement and had specific provisions for the transitional period for those wind energy facilities that have had permits issued,” Mr Guest said. “This one has never had a permit issued, therefore we see no reason why VCAT shouldn’t consider it under the rules that apply at this time.”

The government’s March planning amendment updated the noise standard enforced on wind farms from 1998 levels to a 2010 New Zealand standard.

Wind Farm Developments took the case to VCAT last year after the rejection from Moyne Shire, but the tribunal ruled the development, near Terang, 220km west of Melbourne, should not proceed because it breached the 2010 standard. The company took the case to the Supreme Court, which found VCAT erred by applying the more recent noise standards, which had not been legislated at that time.

Tom and Bev McLaren are among residents who oppose the Sisters development, which would put 135m tall turbines within 750m of their property.

Their son David said he hoped the government would enact its election promise of a 2km buffer zone between turbines and wind farm opponents before a second VCAT hearing in August.

“If that did happen, it would be the end of the matter,” he said. Currently, the planning amendment requires only that wind farm applications include a plan showing all houses within 2km of proposed turbines.

Planning Minister Matthew Guy has previously stated that VCAT should take account of Coalition policy, but warned that the Sisters was likely to be judged on the old guidelines.

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