Friday, December 23, 2011

NSW set to hinder wind energy with onerous planning regulations

The NSW Draft planning regulations on wind farms was released on Friday December 23: on the very last working day before Christmas. You don't need to be a cynic to understand the Barrie O'Farrell conservative Government wants to bury news coverage of these draft planning regulations which impose strict limits on wind farm development which are very similar in scope to the draconian Victorian wind farm planning regultions.

"The new wind guidelines introduced today place more rigourous requirements on wind projects than on any other project development in the state." said Lindsay Soutar, national coordinator of the community 100% Renewable campaign. "While coal and coal seam gas get the red carpet, wind power just gets more red tape."

The draft planning regulations were criticised by Max Phillips, a Marrickville Greens councilor, who said on twitter: "So in NSW u can build a gas well within 200m of a home, or 5-8m of a future home, but a wind turbine should be 2km away. Go figure #nswpol"

Lindsay Soutar accused the O'Farrell Government of listening to a fear campaign by powerful disgruntled landholders rather than the overwhelming community sentiment. "NSW has a choice to make: does it want clean, safe renewable energy which is free and will never run out. Or does it want to keep on digging up coal, and burning dirty gas forever? In poll after poll the community overwhelming says it wants renewable energy."

"Today's announcement by O'Farrell is just another indication that the NSW government is refusing to take seriously the huge opportunity that renewable energy presents." Soputar said, "Barry O'Farrell is out of step with community expectations on this one"

Friends of the Earth was also critical of the draft planning regulations while welcoming confirmation of the NSW 20% renewables target by 2020. Friends of the Earth campaigns co-ordinator, Cam Walker said "While the guidelines are not as punitive as in Victoria, if this draft plan becomes law, there will be a number of worrying precedents which can be expected to negatively impact on renewable energy in the state".

"As is the case in Victoria, the guidelines use a 2km trigger when it comes to residents having the ability to oppose a project. What is the basis for selecting 2km? The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the government is following the wish list of anti-wind campaigners through adopting an arbitrary set-back model." said Cam Walker.

"On face value, the NSW proposal seems better than Victoria. Where residents within 2km oppose a turbine, the matter goes to a Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP). This is a better policy because it avoids the moral hazard of an outright veto, which can lead to a form of extortion given there can not be fair negotiations where one party - the objector - holds all the power."

Cam walker said the devil would be in the detail in the Gateway Process, "... until the NSW Gateway Process is tested, we will not be able to say whether the policy will set back the wind industry as the guidelines in Victoria clearly are doing. The final make up of people on the JRPP will greatly influence the outcome in terms of granting a Site Certificate, and may be the 'Devil in the detail' that destroys the ability of the wind sector to develop in NSW."

According to Brigid Glanville, ABC state political reporter for NSW, "There are 17 wind farm applications in, 13 haven't been put on exhibition. Those 13 applicants will be effected." she said on twitter.


Cam walker outlined the many benefits that wind energy brings to regional areas including jobs, business opportunities, income for local Councils and land owners, and the production of greenhouse friendly energy. "The government has clearly attempted to respond to a noisy minority which is deeply opposed to wind energy. We hope that the final policy does not work against the interests of the majority of people in NSW who do support renewable energy" he said. "Regional areas of NSW will enjoy significant economic benefit if the wind industry is allowed to flourish."


NSW Greens MP David Shoebridge accused the O'Farrell government of looking to destroy this state's wind energy industry and pandering to climate denialists without any scientific evidence. "By pandering to the climate denialists and wind witch doctors, the NSW government is squandering the chance for the creation of four thousand new green jobs."

"The guidelines released today are delivering for Shooters and Fishers MPs Robert Borsak and Robert Brown and their mates in the anti-wind, anti-science climate denialists movement." said David Shoebridge, "Today we appear to be seeing the results of the grubby deal that saw the Shooters and Fishers party vote with the O'Farrell government to slash the police death and disability scheme.

"The government has a choice to secure the state's energy supply for the future. Blind to public opinion and proper scientific evidence Premier Barry O'Farrell has chosen coal seam gas over the cheaper, cleaner wind alternative," Mr Shoebridge said.

You can read the draft planning guidelines for Wind Farms. Public comments on the draft guidelines are being sought up to 14 March 2012. You can email submissions to: innovation@planning.nsw.gov.au or snail mail:

Policy, Planning Systems and Reform,
Department of Planning and Infrastructure,
GPO Box 39, Sydney NSW 2001;

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