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Wind farm approved for Coonooer Bridge

The first wind farm planning permit since the Victorian Government introduced tough planning laws in 2011 has been granted.

Buloke Shire last night voted unanimously to approve a planning permit for the five-turbine wind farm spanning 5.68ha at Coonooer Bridge in the state’s northwest.

Several wind farm planning permit applications have been registered across Victoria since the Coalition introduced laws that restrict turbines being built within 2km of homes without the written consent of the owner, but none have been approved to date.

Australian renewable energy company Windlab Systems along with all neighbouring landholders in a 3km radius are behind the proposal.

Project director Luke Osborne said the project would make provision for a community grant scheme to invest back into local community initiatives.

“Wind energy has always enjoyed strong support from landholders with windy hills,” Mr Osborne said.

“But for neighbouring landholders, the benefits often seem to stop at the boundary fence.

“Twelve months ago the project team set out to take a new approach.

“We wanted to create a fair and open relationship all landholders not just the landowners who would lease land for turbines.

“We met a great community who were prepared to listen and work with us.”

Six formal objections against the proposal were lodged with council and Mayor Reid Mather said he didn’t dismiss their concerns and thought they were genuine.

“We’d love to keep everyone happy all the time but unfortunately you can’t,” Cr Mather said.

“If the objectors want to continue they will have to go to VACT now.

“Our staff have gone out and met with them . . . we have tried to accommodate them as best we can.”

The low number of submissions stands in stark contrast to other recent wind farm applications in other shires that have received dozens of submissions and sparked large community interest.

Infigen Energy took their case to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Last after the local Mitchell Shire council rejected the company’s proposal to build a $100 million 16-turbine wind farm near Seymour.

VCAT adjourned the appeal in April until studies by the National Health and Medical Research Council and Environment Protection Authority of South Australia were completed.