10th October 2018, Yarram Standard
ALBERTON residents are stepping up their campaign to stop a 34 turbine wind farm being constructed on prime farming land between Alberton and Hedley.
The saveyarram group has slammed the Wellington Shire Council for what it says is lack of consultation with its rate payers after council voted to respond to the Planning Minister with in principle support for the development.
Spokesperson for the group Alan McDonald said, “The Wellington Shire Council had not raised awareness by calling meetings and by public engagement as I believe it is obliged to do as a matter of fairness and natural justice to its residents.
“It was allowing Synergy Wind to run a campaign in favor of its turbines. The Wellington Shire Council failed to support its residents by giving them an opportunity to express their opinions directly to the council because it said it was a decision for the Minister of Planning, not the council.
Residents from across the shire are entitled to be outraged because if the turbines get a foot hold in Yarram there will be a precedent to the rest of the shire.” he said. “So the question the council must answer is why did it focus on conditions of the permit instead of objecting to a permit?
Why did it do so when it knew that over 300 people opposed the turbines? Why did it not tell those people that it intended to vote in favor of the turbines at Tuesday’s council meeting without inviting those people to raise their objections to council?
“Maree Avery heard about it on the ABC morning news and a couple of people rushed to the meeting at 3pm. I sent in our petition but none of this was properly considered. Half a day of notice is not good enough.”
At its fortnightly meeting last Tuesday, Council heard from two concerned residents who live in the Alberton area who will be directly impacted by the proposed wind farm, both opposed the project saying it would devalue their properties and threaten the environment.
Wellington Shire Council mayor Cr Carolyn Crossley thanked the residents for their submissions. Cr Darren McCubbin then went onto move the motion that the Council respond to the Planning Minister with in principle support for the wind farm development. It was seconded by Cr Gayle Maher. Cr Malcolm Hole opposed the motion saying he felt they (Council) should reject it completely. Cr Hole raised concerns about the impact on the Yarram Aerodrome and the impact on fire fighting from the air. Cr Hole said Council had a duty of care to its ratepayers.
“If my motion is defeated I will recommend it lay on the table till the high court decision on the South Gippsland Bald Hills wind farm is handed down,” he said. Cr Scott Rossetti then spoke on the matter,” he said.
“I think they are ugly things; however that being said this is a State Government decision. Our letter does not say we will support it, we are simply saying if a planning permit is issued there are the considerations. “We can bang on the table, be a protest group but if we come through with rational agreement, it is proper and right thing to do,” he said. “We should encourage those with concerns to get the ear of the local state representatives. Making sure that all their concerns are thoroughly investigated. I don’t like them (turbines) close to houses but it is the State Government that will decide.”
Cr Maher told council that as a councillor and resident she was very aware of community concerns and the fracturing of the community.
“But at the end of the day it is the State Government that makes the decision,” she said Cr Maher also said the Council submission covers many relevant issues that many residents may not have considered.
“We need to be at the table to discuss these issues,” she said.
Before the issue was put to a vote Cr McCubbin summed up by saying, “Currently there are 15 wind projects operating in Victoria, three of which are in Gippsland, five are under construction and 14 going through approval process.
“The rise of wind power is happening across the state, we are not going to be immune to that whether the minister agrees or disagrees the future is about renewable energy.
“I agree with those who spoke today it is important to agree to wind power but you must get in the right spot.”
Cr McCubbin went on to say that the project would provide 45 homes with energy, create local jobs and through the memorandum of understanding a significant benefit of understanding for the community at the same time.
The vote was carried to respond to the Planning Minister with in principle support for the development however highlighting considerable concerns that would need to be addressed.
These concerns include noise; shadow flicker; proximity to the Yarram airfield; impacts on Council’s road network; handling of complaints; the need for an environmental management plan; the impact of current electrical infrastructure; and, a plan for decommissioning should the proposal be approved by the State Government.
“While Council is a supporter of green, renewable energy we do not agree that it should come at a cost of reducing the liveability of our communities,” Cr Crossley said.
“We can’t control the outcome, this decision is clearly in the hands of the State Government, but we can put forward our community’s views and advocate on their behalf.”
Cr Crossley said Council had received correspondence, representations and a petition from many community members living in or close to the proposed site advising that they oppose the wind farm application. Council will ensure the Minister receives all these objections, along with Council’s own submission. An important outcome from the Council meeting was that Council would seek the Minister for Planning’s assurance that in the absence of a formal Environmental Effects Statement being required by the State Government, all specific concerns raised in submissions by community members be thoroughly investigated and detailed responses provided.
Further, that Council would also provide a copy of all submissions it has received to the local Member of Parliament, Danny O’Brien MP. Council’s draft response to the Minister is available in the Council meeting agenda dated 2 October 2018, on the Wellington Shire Council Website www. wellington.vic.gov.au The proposed Alberton Wind Farm site lies on privately owned land wholly within the Wellington Shire, Victoria. The site was identified following an approach from interested landowners.