Opponents of a wind farm at Collector say the fight isn’t over, while a local Liberal MP has labelled the industry “economically unviable” after a 55-turbine project received NSW government approval this week.
Friends of Collector founders Rodd Pahl and Tony Hodgson expressed disbelief at the Planning Assessment Commission’s (PAC) determination to allow the wind farm to proceed, albeit with eight of the proposed 63 turbines removed from the project.
Neither would commit to a legal appeal against the PAC decision, but both said they were reviewing their options.
“The whole thing’s a disgrace,” Mr Hodgson said. “What’s happened I think has been an absolute breakdown in due process.”
Mr Hodgson, who on two previous occasions sent letters to potential host landholders threatening to sue should turbines prove “an actionable nuisance”, warned his neighbours not to rely on indemnity provided by wind farm company RATCH-Australia to protect them against legal action.
Mr Pahl said the decision was met with disbelief by some members of the community, who weren’t satisfied with the removal of the eight turbines that would have been most visible from the township. ”Our concern is that it’s not just visual, but it’s also around noise and health,” he said.
“The PAC are relying clearly on what we regard strongly as being outdated and biased advice from the NSW government, in particular on the health issues.”
Mr Pahl hoped an upcoming review of the federal government’s Renewable Energy Target (RET) would cut back on subsidies for projects like the Collector Wind Farm.
“This has nothing to do with saving the planet or green electricity. This has everything to do with money,” he said. “From our point of view, unless RATCH and the host landholders have very deep pockets of their own, this wind farm won’t be built.”
Newly-elected federal Liberal MP for Hume, Angus Taylor, said the “controversial” Collector Wind Farm decision, which defied “strong community opposition”, would disappoint residents, and hinted the RET review would likely prove the undoing of the wind farm industry.
“Projects like this seem set to continue unabated until a national review – which the new federal government has committed to in 2014 – can reveal the true economics behind the industry,” he said. “The RET review will look into the massive subsidies for wind farms, which are forcing up electricity prices and propping up an economically unviable industry.”
Collector Community Association’s James McKay said he was disappointed with the entire three-year process, which divided the community rather than united it behind the project. While he said the removal of eight turbines was a small “win” for the town, ultimately there was a long fight ahead to ensure the community received adequate benefit from the wind farm in the long run.
“The whole thing could have been better, and so obviously Collector, collectively, is now in a position where it has to salvage what it can a bit and send a clear message to legislators that it has to improve the process,” he said.
RATCH-Australia project director Anthony Yeates said some of the conditions of approval – particularly removing eight turbines – were unexpected, but the company planned to move ahead with the project and hoped to begin construction by the end of 2014.
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