Ruling of Hawkesdale People v Planning Minister

Hawkesdale community group’s case dismissed against wind farm

20th August, 2021

by Jackson Graham and Kyra Gillespie, The Standard

A Hawkesdale community group’s claim that an extension to a planning permit for a wind farm on the town’s outskirts was invalid has been dismissed by a Victorian Supreme Court Judge.

Judge Melinda Richards handed down the decision on Friday morning, finding that the group making the claim, The People of the Small Town of Hawkesdale, did not have a standing to bring the proceeding.

She found no evidence that the incorporated group existed prior to this year when it filed the legal challenge, instead finding that it was an association formed “in order to be a vehicle for this litigation”.

“The association does not have standing to seek judicial review of the extension decision,” Judge Richards said.

Her decision stated that the association did not have a “special interest” in the proceeding.

Global Power Generation is planning to build a 26-turbine farm at Hawkesdale, but the group brought action against the Victorian Planning Minister and company, with lawyers including Allan Myers, QC, arguing that an extension of the planning permit was invalid because GPG was not the occupier of the land when the extension was granted.

Judge Richards’ decision confirmed that the planning permit provided the source of permission to extend the permit.

She said she would hear parties on the question of costs at a later date.

The People of the Small Town of Hawkesdale’s president John Bos told The Standard the group was “absolutely gutted” following the decision.

Mr Bos said the group planned to further consult its legal team. At least $100,000 has been spent by the group so far on legal costs.

“It’s been a lot of money paid for by the people of Hawkesdale,” he said.

“We believe the value of Hawkesdale is something worth fighting for.

“The money hasn’t come from a corporate entity there to make money, it’s been put in by the people who want to save Hawkesdale.”

Moyne Shire Council recently spent $42,000 to do its own noise testing of the Hawkesdale Wind Farm site to allay community fears the sound could impact the town, only to get the same results the developer already had.

Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner Andrew Dyer said the Hawkesdale community group had not approached him about the case.

Mr Dyer said it was important that people had legal avenues to pursue complaints but highlighted there were other avenues including his office, councils, the Victorian ombudsman, the state government and Environmental Protection Authority, where complainants could seek facts and information.

“There are many no-cost jurisdictions complaints can be taken to,” he said.

“If you are going to pursue a legal avenue, I think it’s important you obtain a second opinion about the prospects of success and merits of your case.”

Global Power Generation was contacted for comment.

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