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WestWind blows out of state

The developer of two wind farms to be built in Moorabool by mid-2013 says the projects will be its last in Victoria after tough new planning laws were introduced.

WestWind announced last week it would no longer invest in Victoria because it considered the state government’s ban on new turbines within two kilometres from homes and five kilometres from towns too restrictive.

This comes as state opposition planning spokesman Brian Tee slammed the new rules, saying they would cripple the industry and cut potential revenue for farmers.

“The view is that millions of dollars available for renting land for wind turbines could mean farmers staying on the land because of the viability around some of these farms,” he said.

Mr Tee said wind farms could provide up to $16million of “drought-proof” income a year for Victorian farmers.

WestWind, which is about to build 121 turbines in Moorabool, said the projects would generate 100 construction jobs, 20 ongoing maintenance roles and $400,000 in rates to Moorabool Council.

Mr Tee, who met with WestWind representatives in Mount Wallace last week, said the new planning rules had gone too far.

“There are hundreds of regional jobs at stake, and this is an opportunity to replace manufacturing jobs that are falling off in the state.

“Two and three generations of farmers are saying this could be the difference for them, to continue the farming tradition or move on; what’s really at stake is a way of life.”

He said if tough times for farming meant families left regional communities, there would be a “ripple effect” hurting the area’s small businesses, CFA and football and netball clubs.

WestWind project manager Phil Burn said the two-kilometre buffer zones were illogical and unnecessary.

“There’s no linkage between two kilometres and why it should be two kilometres, so it’s a purely politically based decision,” he said.

“There’s plenty of people who may not be happy living near things like the Maddingley coal mine, but the idea that people could veto a land-use change is completely foreign to Victoria’s history.”

But Planning Minister Matthew Guy said the planning rules “provide certainty” for the renewable energy sector. He said buffer zones would allow opportunities to build more wind farms without upsetting residents and affecting important social and environmental assets.