Wind Plan needs scrutiny.
22 January 2019
Alex Ford, The Ballarat Courier
The state government may have contradicted its own planning advice by approving the Golden Plains wind farm, lawyers say.
The state government’s environmental effects and planning assessment report for the project states “no other wind farm in Victoria has been approved with such small buffers” of 700 metres – guidelines state 3.2 kilometres is required from brolga nesting habitats.
“If the (environmental effects) panel were to support (project proponent West Wind’s) reduced buffers in the absence of a high level of confidence that reduced buffers were appropriate, the value of the guidelines would be significantly undermined,” the report states.
“It would set a dangerous precedent for future wind farm proposals.”
The state Planning Minister, Richard Wynne, received this advice in September.
“The environmental effects of the project as I have recommended be modified will be acceptable, subject to the findings and recommendations of my assessment particularly those relating to brolga,” he wrote in October.
The permit was approved in December, three days after three landholders launched a Supreme Court action against the Minister.
Previously, WestWind has said the 228 planned turbines could be redistributed inside the smaller area.
Noise monitoring was also a concern- a pre-construction assessment must be made to determine background noise audible from dwellings, from an approved auditor.
A spokesperson for WestWind said the project “will comply with all statutory noise requirements.”
“A noise permit condition requires that another extensive pre-construction noise assessment will be completed once a final turbine manufacturer has been selected,” they said.
“This assessment will be completed just prior to construction and it will also be reviewed and signed off by an independent EPA auditor to the satisfaction of the Minister.”
Representing the three neighbouring landholders in the case, lawyer Dominica Tannock said the project needed appropriate scrutiny.
“We said best case scenario should be 131 turbines (with the proper buffer zones). In October, the Minister assessed 181 turbines would be acceptable,” she said.
“But in December, the Minister decided to grant a permit for 228, in other words he overturned his own assessment.
“There’s so much urgency that we address climate change, this is essential, but there has to be proper process.”
The case returns to the Supreme Court in February, and the project still requires federal approval.
The Minister was contacted for comment.
This proposal is enormous and is expected to impact on Brolga nesting sites (including flight paths)~ See WestWinds proposed Golden Plains Wind Farm map and Victorian government media release detailing the proposal here;