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Queensland councils lose power to approve wind farms

Councils in Queensland will no longer approve new wind farms after the Palaszczuk government takes the power from them.

Deputy Premier Jackie Trad will announce today a new wind farm planning code for the state aimed at combating community worries about the noise and ­aesthetics of the renewable ­energy technology.

The code, obtained by The Australian, requires wind farms to be decommissioned at the end of their operational life and the land to be returned to its former state “to a reasonable ­extent”.

Noise must be kept to an ­“acceptable” level, the safety of low-flying planes cannot be compromised, and new or expanding wind farms will be prevented from causing “unreasonable ­impact” on the landscape.

Proponents will have to conduct an ecological assessment of the site of a proposed wind farm to identify possible problems with bat and bird strike, and developers may be forced to choose ­another location if the risk is considered too great.

There will be restrictions on the level of noise that can be produced by wind farms, particularly at night. Developers will need to negotiate with nearby land­owners on noise, the code states.

New wind farms will be required to keep noise levels below 35 decibels at night and 37 during the day, which is more conservative than similar guidelines in South Australia and Victoria.

And based on recommendations by the National Health and Medical Research Council and Queensland’s Health Department, the code sets as a guideline that there should be a 1.5km buffer between wind farms and “sensitive land uses” on neighbouring properties. If wind turbines will be within 1.5km of neighbours, the development’s proponents are required to negotiate a “deed of release” with the landholders.

Ms Trad said the new scheme complied with national and international standards and was a “big step” towards reaching the government’s target of 50 per cent ­renewable energy by 2030.

“This code includes strict guidelines to address community concerns about health and safety issues, including acoustic management,” she said. “It also ­ensures that development does not unreasonably impact on the character, scenic amenity and landscape values of a location.”

The state government will take the power to approve new or expanded wind farms from councils because “many councils don’t have the specific technical expertise” to consider applications, Ms Trad said.

Last year the government ­approved the Mount Emerald wind farm project on the Atherton Tablelands, in far north Queensland, which has the capac­ity to generate enough electricity to power about 75,000 homes for two decades.

The new wind farm code comes into effect next week.