Windfarm no-go zones: landholders, landscape guardians, the turbine industry and the Planning Minister speak
State Planning Minister Mathew Guy gives more detail on why wind turbines are being banned or restricted from areas in regional Victoria; hear from a major clean energy provider, the wind turbine manufacturer and a landowner planning for wind turbines on what they think about the decision for windfarm ‘no-go zones’ across the state.
The State Government has delivered on an election promise that it would restrict the development of windfarms, with Planning Minister Mathew Guy introducing amendments to the planning code to prohibit windfarms along the Great Ocean Road, the Mornington Peninsula, Macedon Ranges, Yarra Ranges and Wilson’s Promontory, along with policies that stop construction of wind towers within 2km of homes without the owner’s consent and a new amendment that blocks the construction of wind turbines within 5km of major regional centres.
“What we’re proposing is a policy that means a wind turbine cannot be erected within 2 kilometres of the home unless there is consent from the homeowner, and that would allow the turbine to be placed… we believe this is a longstanding election commitment which will bring back fairness and certainty into wind turbine placement in regional Victoria,” says Planning Mnister Mathew Guy.
“Any turbine which is placed on private land will go through the same permit procedure as would a facility on private land in metropolitan Melbourne unless the State Government intervened; what we are simply doing is providing certainty and fairness to the location of turbines…”
For major wind energy provider Pacific Hydro, although the announcement was not a surprise, questions remain over the factual basis of the decision.
“If you look back at what has happened, every windfarm that’s been approved has been approved under an extremely rigorous process in the past; I’ve heard some say we’ve had a bit of a free ride as an industry to date and we absolutely reject that. Victoria has some of the hardest planning processes in the country to get through – the windfarms that have been approved to date have been through that process, and even to get the secondary approvals can take over a year, so you can see how as time goes by you can end up like Union Fornosa where you are struggling to get through to the point where you even start the project,” says Lance Crockett, general manager for Pacific Hydro.
“If you look for example at the Crowlands windfarm which we got through the planning system in late 2009; that wouldn’t get through now, and that was a project where we had just three people come to the independent planning panel session to object to the project, and most of those were about dust and noise during construction… at this point we really have no basis or understanding why the government is doing this. They’ve never put forward any independent analysis or policy analysis that gives the reason for doing this…”
Long-time campaigner against wind turbines and spokeperson for pressure group the Landscape Guardians, Randall Bell is naturally very happy with the decision.
“It’s very pleasing, it’s timely, something that should have happened ten years ago…”
“It shows a government that is sensitive to people; I think it’s about time [this] happened, and the game of politics about windfarms was put to one side. It’s very difficult when you know there’s a right way of doing things and a wrong way, and I’m glad the Bailleu government has stuck to its word and done what it’s said,” he says.
“I’d like to see the government roll out a more comprehensive approach on landscape assessment and I believe it will.”
However for Yambuk-based farmer Geoff Youl and his neighbours it’s quite a different story – they have agreed to put wind turbines on their properties and now face some uncertainty about whether this will happen or not.
Geoff farms beef and prime lamb on his property, and says he was looking forward to adding an additional income stream to his farm.
“I was very disappointed [at Mathew Guy’s announcement] actually, and all of the landowners that adjoin me who were all hosting the wind towers, every one of them was disappointed in the decision,” he says.
“There’s one at Codrington, I can see it from where I’m standing here at the moment [at Yambuk] and they’ve been there for ten years and there’s been no adverse effects anywhere; it’s quite a tourist attraction actually.
“From my point of view… the only people who have these health issues are the people who haven’t got them, whether that’s cynical or not I don’t know; I think there’s a lot to be proven yet in regards to health issues, and as far as I can see there’s been no-one around here who’s had any health issues.”
Opponents to the planning amendments have warned this decision will send billions of dollars of investment elsewhere in Australia as companies find it easier to deliver wind turbines interstate, an accusation Planning Minister Mathew Guy rejects.
“It’s just not true – that argument has been put to me over a large number of years by the same people and it’s simply not true. We have had discussions with wind energy proponents since this policy was first mooted in early 2010; not a single one of them has said they will pack up shop and leave – ever,” he says.
Yet Pacific Hydro general manager Lance Crockett says this is already happening as his company looks further afield for investment opportunities in other states.
“We sort of knew this was coming so we wouldn’t waste our time prospecting further in Victoria; I met with [people] in New South Wales yesterday, and explaining to the government there what had happened in Victoria, and they said ‘it’s great for New South Wales…’ – most likely that investment will end up in New South Wales and the southern parts of Queensland.”
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