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State imposes wind farm rules

State Government moves have left Tablelands Regional Council effectively powerless to consider the massive Mt Emerald Wind Farm proposal, Mayor Rosa Lee Long said yesterday.

Council considered two reports on the project during its meeting in Atherton yesterday.

One report addressed a request from the applicants, Mt Emerald Wind Farm Pty Ltd, for more time to give Council information that would have helped Council officers make an informed assessment of the proposal.

The second report detailed the State Government’s response to amendments Council had proposed to the Mareeba Shire Planning Scheme 2004 – the document that would have governed its consideration of the project.

“Firstly, the State has granted its own extension to Mt Emerald Pty Ltd in regard to the proponents providing information to them until 28 April, 2014,” Councillor Lee Long said after the meeting.

“As the rules state Council has to take the State’s own response to that information in to account in any decision we make, that effectively means the existing TRC has been locked out of considering the proposal before de-amalgamation on 1 January 2014.

“At that time, this project will then fall within the boundaries of the new Mareeba Shire, but its greatest impact is expected to be on residents who will remain in the TRC.

“Council has also been working hard to resolve the rules under which this project would be considered. The long-term solution we proposed was a series of amendments to the Mareeba Shire Planning Scheme that would have given us a basis on which to assess this project while also considering the interests of residents and ratepayers. “We have finally received the State Government’s response to our proposal, which was essentially to take the vast majority of protections away and replace them with what I believe are very lenient conditions indeed.

“The combination of these two State decisions leave Tablelands Regional Council unable to consider the proposal, unable to protect residents and if we could, has left us with rules that have about as much bite as a gummy bear.”

Cr Lee Long said the State’s performance has been extremely disappointing.

“So much for putting power back in the hands of Local Government,” she said.

Division 6 Councillor Marjorie Pagani, speaking after the meeting, thanked the mayor and those councillors who have tried to support the concerned citizens who will be adversely affected by the proposed power station.

She also expressed her profound disappointment at the decisions of the State Government, but assured council that those citizens would not be abandoned in their quest for a fair and equitable decision on this proposed development.