Friday, 14 June 2013

Napthine urged to end wind farm inertia
1 May 2013

PREMIER Denis Napthine needs to scrap wind farm laws that are costing hundreds of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of investment in the region, an alliance of south-west and state wind power supporters says. Alliance member and production supervisor with Portland wind tower manufacturer Keppel Prince, Stuart Batten, said the wind farm laws were blocking nearly $900 million of investment and had forced his company to lay off about 55 workers.

The laws, which include a 2-km zone around wind farms where residents could veto turbines, and a number of no-go zones for wind farms throughout the state, were deterring investors from proceeding with projects already approved. "A lot of investors are not doing anything because of the uncertainty in the market", Mr Batten said. "Government policy is not clear or is too overbearing".

Angela McFeeters, from VicWind, a coalition of wind power businesses, community groups and individuals, said the construction of 1100 wind turbines in Victoria had stalled because of the market uncertainty. Leigh Ewbank, from another alliance member, Friends of the Earth's Yes 2 Renewables, said the two-km exclusion zone had given residents too much power. Mr Ewbank said if the veto zone was scrapped, people living within it would still have opportunities through general planning processes to have input about the siting of wind turbines.

"We would like the two-km veto right to be replaced by a policy that allows the setback limits to be determined on a case-by-case basis that takes into account acoustic modelling, topography and turbine types", he said. Mr Ewbank said the alliance decided to yesterday lobby Premier Napthine at his Warrnambool office because the Premier knew how wind power had benefited his electorate.

It hoped Dr Napthine's recent endorsement of the Macarthur wind farm signalled a more supportive attitude than had been demonstrated by his predecessor Ted Baillieu. A joint statement delivered by the alliance to Dr Napthine's office said two-thirds of Victoria's wind power was presently generated in his electorate.

A report by projects firm Sinclair Knight Mertz estimated the wind farm projects at Macarthur and Oaklands Hill, near Glenthompson, pumped $67 million into the south-west and created 900 construction jobs and 52 ongoing jobs, the joint statement said. Mr Ewbank said the previous Labor government had approved 2500 MWs of wind power but the Liberal/National Party government had approved only six MWs. The alliance has also called for the state government to assess wind farm applications rather than local government.