Environment groups have welcomed Labor’s election pledge to relax planning laws that restrict how close to homes wind farms can be built but they say the reforms should go further.
Opposition leader Daniel Andrews promised on Thursday to remove restrictive planning laws implemented by the state government that provide a veto to landowners within two kilometres of a proposed wind farm.
Mr Andrews said Labor would reduce the buffer to one kilometre if it won the state election. He said the exclusion zone rules had crippled the wind farm industry and resulted in only two wind farms being approved since 2010.
“There are so many companies, so many individuals and communities who want to invest in renewable energy, they want to invest in wind energy and they just need a government that will work with them,” he said during a visit to the Challicum Hills Windfarm in Ballyrogan near Ararat.
Environment Victoria CEO Mark Wakeham welcomed the announcement as a return to “commonsense wind farm planning”.
However, he said Labor needed to be clearer about other laws that restricted the construction of wind farms in areas such as the Great Ocean Road, Mornington Peninsula and Wilsons Promontory.
Mr Andrews said there would be no change to other rules that stopped windfarms being built near national parks and within five kilometres of certain regional towns.
Australian Wind Alliance national co-ordinator Andrew Bray also said Labor should remove “unnecessary no-go zones” for wind farms.
Pacific Hydro executive manager of corporate affairs Andrew Richards said whichever party won the state election needed to encourage investment in renewables.
He said the uncertainty over the Renewable Energy Target was also hurting the industry.
“The debate about the RET has basically driven the renewable energy industry into the wall, we need to get that resolved as soon as possible,” he said.
Labor also promised that $20 million of its recently announced $200 million jobs plan would be used to encourage investment in clean energy.
Planning Minister Matthew Guy accused Labor of backflipping, pointing out that it was previously opposed to the idea of buffer zones.
He said despite the Coalition’s restrictive wind farm planning laws, half a dozen wind farms had been approved.
“They have been more restrictive, principally because putting wind turbines of 160 metres just a few hundred metres from people’s homes is not a good outcome.”
Victorian Greens leader Greg Barber also accused Labor of a backflip: “They [Labor] now ‘half-endorse’ Ted Baillieu’s anti-wind farm rules,” he said.
With Henrietta Cook
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding