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Western Victorian wind farm plans fail to mention brolga nests, say Brewster residents  

Credit:  By Steve Martin, Debbie Rybicki, and Jane McNaughton | 19 May 2023 | abc.net.au ~~

Wind energy company RE Future has submitted a planning permit for a seven-turbine, 42-megawatt wind farm which, under new planning provisions, will bypass council and be assessed directly by Victoria’s planning minister.

Fourth-generation grain farmer Brett Swan said he was worried about the project’s effect on the community, especially noise, shadow flicker and the population of brolgas.

Although there are no turbines proposed on his land, there was a brolga nesting site on his farm 800 meters from the closest proposed turbine, despite government guidelines requiring a buffer over three kilometres.

“We can clearly prove there are five or six breeding sites within a couple of kilometres of the wind farm.”

“And all seven turbines will be within 2.5 kilometres of just this one particular breeding site and there are numerous amounts more.”

One of the brolgas habitats in Brewster (Supplied: Melissa & Glenn Pretty)

Mr Swan said the proof of brolgas nests in the area should affect the outcome of the planning permit, but their presence was not mentioned in the initial environmental report from the company.

“The ecological study is truly incorrect,” he said.

“That references low-quality habitat and says there is none within a certain amount of kilometres of the wind farm. We all know that’s incorrect.”

Calls for intervention

The community had lost faith in the planning process, Mr Swan said.

“You think you’re protected by policies and procedures and what is stated in the government’s guidelines of what needs to be considered as buffer zones in regards to brolga breeding sites,” he said.

“At this point it seems to be misleading and down to interpretation.”

Member for Western Victoria Region Joe McCracken added his voice to the discussion in parliament this week.

“The brolga is listed as endangered under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, and the last brolga census conducted by DELWP estimated the Victorian population was just 635 birds,” Mr McCracken told state parliament.

“The proposed seven-tower wind turbine development in Brewster will have a significant impact on the future survival of the brolga – I toured the site recently and saw the brolgas with my own eyes.

“Will the minister intervene to ensure all rules, buffer zones and regulations are adhered to, protect the breeding and flocking habitats of the brolga, and ensure its long-term survival?”

A spokesperson for Victorian Planning Minister Sonya Kilkenny said in a statement the brolga guidelines would be a key consideration for the assessment of the application.

“Following reports of sightings near the project site, further analysis is being undertaken on the impact the project may have on brolgas as a species,” the spokesperson said.

“The proponent is preparing additional material for consideration before the matter will be determined.”

‘Surprise’ application

Meanwhile, Moyne Shire has expressed concern about another wind farm application lodged to the Planning Minister by RE Futures, without informing the council, for a new six-turbine development in Garvoc, nearly 150 kilometres south of Brewster.

Mayor Karen Foster said although the council has no formal approval role in decision-making, developers generally engage with council and keep them informed of their plans.

“Usually councils and communities are engaged really early in the process, so this is really unusual and disappointing,” Cr Foster said.

“There’s never a perfect way [to consult on these projects], but I think it is common decency to involve the impacted communities from the outset.”

Cr Foster said the community was “blindsided” by the news, and the council would ask the Planning Minister to take the lack of community consultation into consideration when assessing the future of the project.

Moyne Shire had asked the state government to pause all planning on future wind projects in the region, which already hosted over 300 turbines, Cr Foster said.

“[That’s] until we can do some strategic planning and better understand the impact on our really highly fertile and productive agricultural land,” she said.

“We’re finding wind farms are just popping up in proliferation – there are also 110 turbines under construction.”

“There are more than 250 in the planning process, so if all that goes ahead we’ll have around 700 turbines.”

As Moyne Shire was not privy to the details of the application, such as the boundaries of the proposed wind farm, Cr Foster said she had no idea how many landholders would be affected.

“It was completely unexpected – it has real impacts on landowners,” she said.

“For example, it triggers a planning restriction on all land in farming zones around that site.”

“It has genuine and real impacts on the ground, straight away.”

RE Futures failed to comment before deadline.

Source:  By Steve Martin, Debbie Rybicki, and Jane McNaughton | 19 May 2023 | abc.net.au

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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