ELEANOR HALL: The renewable energy sector says the future of wind energy is under threat from new rules being imposed by the Victorian Government.
The State Government introduced sweeping changes to the rules on the construction of wind farms, in response to an election promise as Anthony Stewart reports.
ANTHONY STEWART: Wind energy is expected to make up critical segment of the Federal Government’s renewable energy targets, but the winds of change are blowing in the opposite direction in Victoria.
At the last state election the Coalition committed to strengthen planning laws to stop the construction of wind farms in vast areas of the state.
It also promised to empower residents to oppose the construction of wind turbines within two kilometres of their homes.
Today, the Planning Minister, Matthew Guy, has gazetted a planning amendment which will deliver on these promise and more.
MATTHEW GUY: What we are putting forward is a policy that means that a wind turbine can’t be erected within two kilometres of a home unless there is consent from the home owner and that would then allow the turbine to be placed. But at this point we believe it’s a long standing election commitment that we are fulfilling and we think it’s the right one and it will bring fairness and certainty back into wind turbine placement across regional Victoria.
ANTHONY STEWART: The scheme also prevents the construction of wind farms in so called ‘No Go Zones’.
Development in picturesque landscapes like the Yarra Ranges, along the Great Ocean Road, the Mornington Peninsula and Wilson’s Promontory will be blocked. Wind turbines will also be banned within five kilometres of 21 regional cities.
Matthew Guy says the changes fix a broken scheme developed by Labor.
MATTHEW GUY: I actually think the Opposition don’t actually understand the planning system when they are making that claim and it beggars belief the shadow minister would make a claim about bringing legislation to Parliament when there is absolutely no ability for legislation to have any impact upon this. It actually shows how little the Labor Party understand the planning system in Victoria.
ANTHONY STEWART: The shadow planning minister, Brian Tee, has attacked the way the Government made the changes.
BRIAN TEE: Well I think this is a slight of hand. He should have brought this to the Parliament because this is going to have serious consequences. He hasn’t got the balance right and the price, the cost is going to be paid by the environment, regional jobs that are going to disappear and our children will shake their heads and wonder why.
ANTHONY STEWART: The renewable energy sector’s peak representative, the Clean Energy Council, says the changes will result in wind farm developers leaving Victoria.
Policy director, Russell Marsh.
RUSSELL MARSH: On the face of it would indicate that certainly wind development in Victoria is going to be severely affected and wind developers may start looking to other states to develop projects.
ANTHONY STEWART: He says it could cost the state billions of dollars in investment.
RUSSELL MARSH: Two k set back the government was talking about would do something like reduce investment in wind energy in Victoria by between 50 and 70 per cent. We were forecasting about, you know, over $3 billion worth of investment will disappear from Victoria as a result of the two k set back policy.
ANTHONY STEWART: Matthew Guy Refutes this claims.
MATTHEW GUY: That argument has been put to me by a number of years, by the same people, it is simply not true. We have had discussions with wind energy proponents, with a number of them since this policy was first mooted in 2010. Not a single one of them have ever said that they will pack up shop and leave Victoria – ever.
ANTHONY STEWART: The decision has won praise. The Victorian Landscape Guardians say the decision protects the state’s idyllic scenery.
Randall Bell is their president.
RANDALL BELL: It’s a sense of relief in that we are about the conservation of the landscape. The prospect of industrialising the south-east of Australia, turning it into a pin cushion of these hundred plus metre high behemoths was appalling.
ANTHONY STEWART: The laws will not apply to wind farms already granted planning approval, but wind energy developers currently seeking construction permits will need to alter their applications to fall in line with the new rules.
ELEANOR HALL: Anthony Stewart with that report.
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