March 4, 2020

Controversial Nundle wind farm will offer payout to neighboring landowners

Andrew Messenger | The Northern Daily Leader | March 4 2020 |

Landowners near to Nundle's $600m Hills of Gold windfarm will get a payout even if they do not actually own land underneath it's turbines.

Managing director Jamie Chivers said Wind Energy Partners, the company behind the controversial renewable energy proposal, will soon announce what it calls the Community Benefit Scheme. The scheme will pay people who live near the project "as if they were landowners of the project," he said.

But neighbors will not necessarily get the same payout as actual landowners.

"We're at the moment trying to conclude what that will mean," said Mr Chivers.

"We're going to be very transparent about what the benefits are and the guidelines as to who's entitled to those benefits."

The $600 million project, which would install 98 turbines up to 220m tall on the hills near Nundle and Hanging Rock, will also finance what the company calls the Community Enhancement Fund. The Fund will subsidise local projects of a social benefit, an environmental benefit or a built environment benefit.

The company held a consultation meeting with members of the community last Thursday to discuss how the fund would be administrated, what the money could be spent on and more.

The massive power scheme is controversial in Nundle, with the Hills of Gold Preservation group claiming a majority of the community opposes the project and arguing it will have negative environmental impact on three rivers, biodiversity, and "visual amenity" among other problems.

They also told the Leader in 2018 the "high visual impact" of the turbines would drive away tourists from the town.

But Wind Energy Partners said the project would not even be visible from most of Nundle.

Hills of Gold windfarm has committed to spend $2,500 per turbine that goes into operation per year for the life of the project in Nundle through the enhancement fund.

Asked if the financial benefit to the community would match money going to landholders Mr Chivers said the project was making a "material commitment to the community from the project".

"It's a significant amount," he said.

"In terms of other projects, we see it as equivalent to what other projects are offering the community."

Last year the project was declared a "controlled action" under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which forces the proponents to investigate and mitigate costs to 13 critically endangered, endangered, and vulnerable plants and animals "likely present and significantly impacted" in the proposed project area.

The project has until November to submit a development application for approval.

Jamie Chivers said they are on track to submit the DA on schedule.

The Hills of Gold Preservation group was contacted for this story but declined to comment.

The organisation is holding an AGM on Thursday this week.

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