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Renewable energy opposition groups to link up in regional meeting

An batch [sic] of groups lobbying against wind and solar projects in the New England is set to hold its first meeting next month.

Meeting organiser Jon Galletly said the Armidale meeting would bring together community opposition from across the region from Nundle, to Ben Lomond.

The New England was recently legally designated a ‘renewable energy zone’ in legislation which passed the lower house of NSW state parliament on Tuesday.

The region is designated to be home to as much as $12.7 billion worth of renewable energy investment, the biggest in the state.

But Mr Galletly said there is a growing concern enormous wind and solar projects will be built near “lifestyle blocks” across the region, creating costs for residents.

“We want the government to stand up and listen and to put protocols in place for foreign companies, whether they’re French, Chinese or Calithumpians, to put a proposal that they have got to tick the boxes that we believe should be there,” he said.

He said government should particularly restrict renewables’ development in heavily populated areas.

Ben Lomond resident Beth White told the Leader her community, near Glen Innes, were “extremely upset” by a proposal to build a wind farm just a few kilometres from their town.

The community of Nundle is divided over a proposal to build a wind farm on the Hills of Gold outside the small town.

Mr Galletly said the idea of the meeting, slated for December 3 at the Armidale Town Hall, is to help coordinate several groups.

“We want to get all these groups together and find out their stories. We’re going to put an agenda together. And then we’ll listen to the groups, and we’re going to compare stories,” he said.

He said few opposed renewable energy in principle. Instead the concern was about where and how energy development was going to be done.

“If we’re going to set it up we’ve got to set it up once and set it up right. There’s no good 25 years or 30 years down the track when these turbines need a lot of work on them or the solar needs to be replaced saying we should have thought about that and set the grid up a lot better.”

Renewables are not new to the region.

When it was built, White Rock Wind Farm outside Glen Innes was the largest in NSW, at a cost of $400 million. The neighbouring Sapphire Wind Farm cost $550 million, and is now the largest.

Member for Northern Tablelands Adam Marshall, who supports renewables development, said construction of a huge new horizontal power plant is anticipated to create 2,000 jobs, with the sector to employ about 1,300 people for the long term.