Wind developers say they weren’t consulted by the NSW Government before it announced plans to give people more opportunities to appeal against wind farm projects across the state.
The government has restored community appeal rights for nine wind projects currently in development across the state’s southern tablelands, central region and south-east.
The projects will now be considered as state significant developments, instead of being dealt with under the part 3A transitional provisions left over from the former Labor government.
Senior development manager at CWP Renewables, Adrian Maddocks, says it’s a step backwards for the industry.
“Under part 3A, once you got consent, you were pretty much guaranteed you could go ahead and build the project, assuming it was approved,” he said.
“What it means now is you could get consent but then we’d have to wait to see if someone was going to appeal the project, which could add 12-18 months to the timeframe, and significant costs as we went through an appeal process.”
The NSW Coalition Government announced its commitment to repealing part 3A in 2011, but developers say the final deadline for projects lodged under the former Labor administration to complete environmental assessments hadn’t been set.
Mr Maddocks says his company is ‘clearly disappointed’ and concerned that there was no consultation.
“We’ve had discussions and negotiations and we’ve been working quite hard to get this through the planning system and this announcement just came out of the blue,” he said.
“It was a complete surprise to us and they just decided to stop that process. They had no discussion with us about wanting to set a final deadline for getting things submitted.”
CWP Renewables is involved in the development of three of the nine wind projects which will be affected by the decision. It’s currently working on the Crudine Ridge, Uungula and Bango wind farms, all in central NSW.
A spokesperson for the NSW Department of Planning and Infrastructure says its decision wasn’t abrupt and that the time taken by CWP Renewables to lodge its environmental assessments has been ‘unacceptably long’.
“The Director-General’s requirements detailing what is required in the environmental assessments for Uungala and Bango wind farms were issued three years ago,” the spokesperson said.
“The agency received initial EAs from the company in May 2013, two years after the Director-General’s requirements were issued. The company was informed they were inadequate shortly after.”
The Department claims it still hasn’t received adequate environmental assessments for the Uungala and Bango wind farms
Mr Maddocks disagrees with the suggestion that CWP Renewables has failed to meet deadlines.
“We’ve got quite a bit of information on record that quite clearly indicates we’ve met all the target deadlines that they’ve put in place, justified why it takes time to get a wind farm project to consented,” he said.
“The environmental assessment process takes a good 12-18 months to pull together.
“I do wonder whether (this announcement) is due to the new state election that will happen next year.
“Obviously (the government) wants to clear the decks. They want to uphold their initial mandate that they would repeal part 3A and get rid of it.”
The Department of Planning and Infrastructure says the restoration of community appeal rights will make wind farm development assessment more open and transparent.
“The removal of the critical infrastructure status from these projects brings them into line with the system under which other state significant development like mining is assessed in NSW,” a spokesperson said.
“The rules should be the same for everyone.”
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