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Talks ‘positive’ with French officials over wind farm plan

Australia’s bid to block a wind farm project from being built on World War 1 French battlefields where the remains of thousands of Aussie Diggers lie has strengthened with the backing of the French Government.

France will make a formal submission on Australia’s behalf to the public inquiry into French company Engie Green’s proposal to build six turbines on the sensitive Bullecourt battlefields of the former Western Front.

France’s Ambassador to Australia Christophe Penot will also raise Australia’s concerns with the head of the Pas-de-Calais prefecture, which has authority for the project.

It is understood he has also spoken directly to Engie Green.

Veterans Affairs Minister and Wannon MP Dan Tehan said he was “absolutely reassured and comforted” by the French response.

“I think the indications are positive that our concerns will win the day,” he said.

Mr Tehan discussed the wind farm proposal during a 15-minute phone conversation on Thursday night with France’s junior Minister for Armed Forces, Genevieve Darrieussecq.

He had further talks on Friday with Mr Penot.

“I have been absolutely reassured and comforted by the response from the minister and the ambassador and for their words of support and understanding,” Mr Tehan said.

“From a national perspective, the French Government understands our sensitivities and will seek to do what they can to support our efforts.

“I am confident we will get the right outcome.”

Ms Darrieussecq’s written submission on Australia’s behalf to the wind farm public inquiry would express Australia’s concerns around the sensitivities of the issue, and the importance to Australians of those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice at Bullecourt a century ago, Mr Tehan said.

He was further reassured by Mr Penot that there were other avenues open to Australia for objection to the proposal.

Mr Tehan earlier this week vowed to do everything in his power to block the turbines following growing public concern about the impact of the project on the resting place of thousands of Australian soldiers who died in the two bloody Battles of Bullecourt in April and May of 1917.