Local government has been left to carry the can in the national push for more renewable energy supplies, Moyne Shire Council has been told.
Moyne, which is at the hub of one of Australia’s largest energy-producing regions, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on planning approval work and borne massive costs in maintaining roads linked to construction sites.
Yet it, like other rural municipalities, gets little in return apart from annual rates revenue when the projects are up and running.
“The benefits are national, yet the costs appear to be all local,” said Mortlake-based Cr Jill Parker, who won unanimous support in her motion to put the issue on the next Australian Local Government Association national conference agenda.
Association delegates will be asked to back Moyne’s call for the federal government to support local councils that have large renewable energy projects and help them recoup costs in processing planning applications and reinstating damaged infrastructure.
“The federal government supports development of renewable energy projects and likewise should compensate local government authorities, especially as such projects place extra financial and resource burdens on rural councils,” she said.
“Most of these projects are in areas where population and financial resources are low.
“We have two planning staff employed just to work on renewable energy projects.”
Yesterday Cr Parker told The Standard the extra planning department workload cost the shire about $200,000 a year in salaries alone.
In response to a statement by Western Victoria MP Simon Ramsay this week that wind farms made a big contribution to council revenue in rates, Cr Parker said the payment started only when the projects were operating.
Cr Ralph Leutton said the issue should be raised at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).
He said local government had drawn the short end of the stick and should not be expected to carry all the burden.
“We have to draw a line in the sand on this.”
Councillors also criticised the state government’s planning department for failing to make a commitment to attend community committees on wind farms.
A letter was tabled from the Department of Planning and Community Development saying it would attend Mortlake South Wind Farm community engagement committee meetings only when there were issues “relevant to the minister”.
This triggered councillors to say it was incumbent on the department to send a representative to every meeting.
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