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Acciona wind farm funded Moyne Shire Council job raises angst  

Credit:  Jackson Graham | The Standard | June 12 2020 | www.standard.net.au ~~

A south-west council has moved to rule out fears that a local government job position that a wind farm company will pay for would create a conflict of interest.

But some of the region's wind farm planning agitators say if the council accepts the role it will "compromise" the office's impartiality.

Renewable energy company Acciona has offered to pay for the two-year Moyne Shire Council job at a $200,000 cost as part of its agreement for the Mortlake Wind Farm with the state government.

"Acciona does not expect anything in return from council as a result of this role," a company spokeswoman said. She said the role, first flagged with the council in February 2018, was "not related to wind farms". Instead, she said it would advise on energy efficiency generally across the shire through promotion and engagement with households and industry.

Moyne Shire resident Neil Blain told councillors at a recent meeting he believed the role shouldn't be accepted.

"How can it be independent and seen not to be compromised by accepting this money, however it dresses up what the purpose may be?," he said later.

"My concern is that Moyne Shire is ultimately the body responsible for enforcing noise issues, and the environmental management plan."

But council chief Bill Millard said the council had now obtained legal advice that "there is no conflict of interest".

"Council has various funding models that apply to staffing, including directly funding the majority of positions, contract arrangements with state and federal government, sharing staff across councils and funded positions from businesses," Mr Millard said.

"The role would not in any way be related to Acciona planning projects currently before the council."

Councillors will vote on the role at a future council meeting.

Cr Jim Doukas said he wanted to sight a memorandum of understanding, the job description and its limitations before making a decision.

"If they are hired at arms length and not actually a staff member, then that might protect against the perception of a conflict of interest," Cr Doukas said.

"We can't just accept the money and make it fit, we have to know how it's going to fit."

Source:  Jackson Graham | The Standard | June 12 2020 | www.standard.net.au

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