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Councils left ‘powerless’ on windfarms

A workshop, followed by a special meeting, will be held by Clare and Gilbert Valleys Councillors next month to prepare their comments about a controversial State Government amendment to the Development Plan.

The amendments relate to wind farm development and have been designed to fast track applications and minimise community objections.

Councils will be obliged to approve any wind farm application providing it is not within two kilometre of a township boundary or one kilometre of an adjacent dwelling.

Only issues of visual impact would be allowed as reasons for rejecting an application, and even then, the State Government can overrule the local council and grant approval.

National parks will also be open for wind farm development.

Although the government has already brought in the changes for an interim period of up to 12 months it is undertaking mandatory consultation with local government.

Councillors discussed the matter at their meeting on Monday night, November 21, after having heard from Central Local Government Region windfarm liaison officer Trevor White.

Mr White outlined the changes in the government’s legislation and the implications for councils and communities. The new policy will see a significant reduction in public consultation, removal of third party appeal rights in many situations and will designate wind farms as essential infrastructure and part of the desired character for the region.

Under the changes only adjoining landholders of proposed wind farm developments will have the right to make representations and will not have any right of appeal.

In an attempt to lessen the visual impact of wind farms, the State government has introduced a requirement for a one kilometre set back between wind farms and dwellings and a two kilometre set back distance between windfarms and the periphery of country towns.

“At the end of the day it is very difficult for councils to refuse them (wind farms) if they fulfil the technical specifications,” Mr White said.

“And although the public has no appeal rights, the developer will have appeal rights.”

If a council were to refuse a wind farm development their only argument would be for visual impact, although this would not prevent them from outlining other concerns in their determination.

Deputy mayor Cr Nedd Golding said he could not understand how the State Government had been able to take a “socialist” approach to wind farm development.

“Down the track the High Court would be fairly interested in this one, and I think people in Australia have the right to object,” Mr Golding said.

“I am not against wind farms in the right place, but if someone in this council area, who pays rates, can’t have a say, then there is something wrong with the system.”

The workshop to discuss the council’s response will be held on Tuesday, December 5 at 7.30pm followed by the special council meeting at 8.30pm.