Where did the ‘No Go’ zones come from?

The following is a letter from last weeks Macedon Ranges Weekly.

Where did the ‘No Go’ zones come from?

Last year, the state government created a series of ‘No Go’ zones, which block wind energy developments across much of Victoria, including the Macedon – McHarg Ranges. The government seems to think these ranges extend almost as far north as Bendigo.

Member for Northern Victoria Donna Petrovich has said in state parliament that the No Go zones were “carefully” selected where communities “on the whole have told us that they are not appreciative of wind farms”.

Given the controversial nature of the No Go zones, and the widespread support for the Macedon and Castlemaine community wind proposals, it would be useful to understand how Ms Petrovich consulted the community to reach her conclusion that wind power is unpopular. I have tried unsuccessfully over a number of months to get a clear answer from her office on this issue.

If an MP consults their constituents in order to develop their position, that is to be commended. If it’s a robust consultation process, then why not release the results? Polling continually shows the majority of people do support renewable energy and wind power in particular, so there is an onus on Ms Petrovich to come clean on her research if she is to stand by her claim that communities right across the Macedon and McHarg Ranges and big chunks of Central Victoria are “not appreciative” of this form of green and sustainable energy.

Cam Walker
Campaigns co-ordinator
Friends of the Earth


Ms Petrovich, an Upper House member for Northern Victoria, has made it fairly clear that she supports fossil fuel over renewables:

On wind

In Hansard, Ms Petrovich raises various issues about what she sees as the ‘problems’ with wind energy: issues of reliability of wind, health risks, visual impacts.

Ms Petrovich is concerned that the previous government did not consult with the community over wind farm policy (this does beg the question of who the Coalition consulted with in framing their policy). She said in parliament (May 2 2012) that “we are great sticklers for process and for ensuring that people have a voice.”

She says that the No Go zones were ‘carefully’ selected where communities ‘on the whole have told us that they are not appreciative of wind farms’. In the same speech she only mentioned anti-wind groups as being the groups she had worked with in forming her opinion – see below.

She endorses the Coalition wind policy: ‘The position the government has come to is one that I am proud of.’

Hansard, 12/10/11

The only thing we do know is that she has worked with anti-wind groups:

“I have worked with groups such as the RATs (Residents Against Turbines) of Tooborac and a group that works out of Baynton and Sidonia, and they have had great concerns about the proposals for wind farms”.

Hansard October 11, 2011

But who are these people? Unlike the case with green groups, there is no public information available about who these groups are, and who they represent. Ms Petrovich needs to come clean on who these groups are, rather than promoting anonymous organisations as the source of her information.

Even the RATS themselves have said “We have decided to remain anonymous“. Check here for reference, section 6.3. How can public policy be driven by a group that won’t even identify themselves?

On coal and CSG

“The Coalition looks towards the effectiveness and abundance of brown coal as a means to provide a reliable source of energy for Victorians”.

Hansard October 11, 2011

In May 2012, Ms Petrovich spoke in parliament AGAINST a proposal for a moratorium on coal seam gas (CSG) exploration until there has been a comprehensive investigation into the likely impacts of this industry on land, food production and water.

“I can say from the outset that we will not be supporting any moratorium on exploration for coal seam gas”.

“It makes sense to explore new sources of gas, including unconventional sources like coal seam gas, to keep gas prices affordable for Victorians”.

– Hansard, May 2, 2012.

what do you think?

If you are concerned that Ms Petrovich has helped kill off any short term option for community owned wind energy in Central Victoria, you may want to let her know your feelings on the matter with a quick email or phone call. Just say you’d like to leave a message for Ms Petrovich, and leave a short message, plus your contact details.

Phone : (03) 5782 2011
Fax :     (03) 5782 2099
Email: donna.petrovich@parliament.vic.gov.au

An open letter to Donna Petrovich from Rebecca Colless, Woodend

31 October 2011
Dear Ms Petrovich,

I sent a letter to you by post six weeks ago and again by email a fortnight ago. You have chosen not to respond, so now I am writing a public letter to you, because I urgently want your answers to my six questions below.

I support the community‐owned small‐scale wind park as proposed by the Woodend Integrated Sustainable Energy (WISE) group.

Climate change is a clear and present danger: an overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists agree. Why is the Victorian Liberal Party denying our community the opportunity to mitigate climate change and secure a clean energy future, when we live in an area so rich in wind energy?

When Ted Baillieu presented the Premier’s Sustainability Award to the Hepburn Community Wind Park in May 2011 he said ‘Being smart with our resources makes economic and social sense.’ Why doesn’t his statement apply to the proposed Woodend Community Wind Park – banned by your government’s legislation in August 2011?

The WISE group is proposing just three turbines for Woodend. Hidden from view in the forest.

Handily close to the existing electricity grid, with the capacity to provide clean power to the combined population of Woodend, Macedon, Mount Macedon and Newham. Are you aware of the following facts about wind turbines?
• In Australia up to 10,000 times as many birds and bats die from collisions with vehicles and buildings, than from collisions with wind turbines.
• The CFA rates modern wind turbines as inherently low‐risk for fire.
• At a distance of 350 metres ‐ much closer than any residence to the proposed Woodend Community Wind Park site – the sound generated by a wind turbine is equivalent to the background noise in a rural area at night.

With bizarre timing, just as you banned wind harvesting in the Macedon Ranges, your government honoured an agreement WISE had with the previous government and gave WISE $50,000 to build a test mast. Then this month, your government asked for the money back. Is this because you don’t want residents to find out exactly how much wind energy is whistling over our heads?

While travelling to Melbourne recently, my daughter looked around and asked me why it’s OK to build: vast freeways; giant antennae; powerlines with enormous pylons; in‐your‐face billboards; and large smoking chimneys; all in view of thousands of people ‐ but it’s not OK to build wind turbines. Can you explain this to her?

You are the Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Environment. So what are your reasons for blocking the Woodend Community Wind Park, Donna?

Rebecca Colless

Another letter. Lyn Hovey, Riddells Creek

There is much opposition in the Macedon Ranges to the views of Donna Petrovich, the northern Victoria Upper House MP who opposes wind energy and is very supportive of coal and coal seam gas.  I am not aware of any public consultation before the Liberal Government decided last August to create a huge ‘no go’ zone to block wind energy in much of Central Victoria including the Macedon Ranges.  She has refused to say who she consulted beyond naming one anti wind group.  Her support for the coal industry is grubby politics in that she invests in a company which is planning to frack for coal seam gas in Gippsland in coming months.  On which planet is she the Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Environment?

The resulting loss of employment and investment opportunities from stalled wind projects in Victoria is substantial.  The Clean Energy Council estimates that the laws will eventually drive $3.6 billion of investment away from Victoria.  Lost or stalled employment has been calculated at around 480 direct jobs in construction, more than 39 on-going jobs in management of wind projects, and 1,034 associated indirect jobs, making a total of 1553 jobs.

At present there are four community owned wind farm projects currently in the planning phase in Victoria. These are all in declared ‘no go’ zones.  They are at Castlemaine, Westgate, Surf Coast and Macedon.

The Macedon wind project of three 2.1 MW turbines which was to be situated about 7 kilometres south of Woodend in a pine forest would have supplied equivalent power to that consumed by 3,300 households (the combined population of Woodend, Macedon, Mount Macedon and Newham).  This project could deliver the benefits of a community-owned wind park including the retention of income from energy sales within the shire, access to clean energy as electricity generated would be fed to local homes via the grid, and the avoidance of transmission losses (up to 30%) from energy currently supplied from the Latrobe Valley.

The successful Hepburn project is worth $13.5m, more than $7m of the project was spent on Australian content, and more than half of the Australian content was spent in regional Victoria.

Residents in the Macedon Ranges have taken up the option of generating their own energy via solar rooftop in extraordinary numbers, thus reducing the demand on coal generated electricity.  Citizens are doing their bit to reduce Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions but meanwhile the Baillieu Government is covertly planning a massive coal export industry and backtracking on closing the state’s ageing coal power stations.


25 thoughts on “Where did the ‘No Go’ zones come from?

  1. “..and the widespread support for the….Castlemaine community wind proposals..”
    Support from whom? Mount Alexander Sustainability Group..undoubtedly. Local residents… guess again.

    MASG tries to convince the locals they have wide support via their “surveys” (although no-one outside MASG ever seems to get surveyed). Their current online survey is biased for wind farm support and has been most heavily advertised to MASG members, little in the media.

    Sutton Grange residents in particular reported heavy bias and virtual censorship at the “forum” conducted at Sutton Grange, with over 50% of attendees being MASG Rent-a-Crowd.

    You are entitled to your opinons, but please don’t distort the facts by claiming a majority support the Mt Alexander wind farm, for it just isn’t so.

  2. hi John,
    the surveys are well advertised on-line and anyone can fill them out. MASG reports to the community as often as it can via the local papers – the Mail and Express, & is holding 6 community forums where anyone can come along. There are stalls almost every week at public events across the Shire. Geez, what more do you want them to do?

    I think thats a pretty big call to accuse MASG of ‘heavy bias and virtual censorship’. I went to 2 of the forums (Chewton & Taradale) and they were well facilitated by someone who had donated their time, and there were many respectful conversations. I assume you have heard from third parties about this ‘bias’? Sad you can’t see past your own prejudice on this one.

    Based on what I have seen, i can say that the wind project is resoundingly well supported in our region.

  3. John, what’s your particular concern? Even if MASG did what you claim (which I doubt), why is it okay for those opposed to wind farms to promote dodgy surveys, gatecrash meetings and destroy property. Shouldn’t bad behaviour from any group be criticised? Or only those you disagree with?

    The fact the MP has made claims unsupported by evidence should be questioned don’t you think? If she has the evidence, why isn’t she making it public? Particularly when it runs counter to public opinion polls.

  4. Donna, please let us know the names of a representative from each of the groups you spoke with? No? Secret Liberal business i presume…

  5. Donna, no one consulted us! We heard neither hide nor hair of any whisper to destroy the wind renewable energy industry in Victoria before the election. We live outside Bendigo and I can assure you there was no consultation with anyone I have spoken to. You didn’t have a policy at the last election, as I recall, and still don’t. Your response imust be seen purely as political pay off, I suspect, as you won’t say on what basis your government has decided to deal a lethal blow to Victoria’s renewable energy future.

  6. My letter to Donna:

    Ms Petrovich,

    As a neighbour and constituent of yours, I am concerned about the stance that you are taking in your involvement with drafting this government’s energy policies.

    You and your party’s regrettable stance against wind power in the Macedon and McHarg Ranges is well known, yet what is not well known is the information and data that you and the Liberal Party have used in your decision to disallow wind farms in this area. Several local groups that I am involved with are also wondering when you are going to release this information, so that we can respond to it in a fully informed manner, and make decisions on who to support come the next election.

    What perturbs me even more is your documented support for the further extraction of Latrobe Valley (and also from elsewhere in the state) brown coal, at many times the current rate, for export to other countries – to be burnt in power stations. In defiance of community opinion, you are in support of raising the moratorium on CSG exploration in the state. Is Victoria trying its little best to jump on the resource extraction bandwagon, to be like WA and Qld?

    You are the party Secretary for Sustainability and the Environment. How do the above facts not produce cognitive dissonance for you? Climate change is seen, by anyone with any authority on the issue, to be occurring, and it will become more severe and damaging in the years to come. Only a dramatic shift to renewable and low-emission energy production, such as is happening in Germany (a country with many less sunlight hours than Australia, yet a world leader in solar and wind technologies) is said by experts to give us any chance at all to blunt the worst effects of the average global temperature rise and maintain the planet’s current habitability for our grandchildren.

    The environment of the Macedon Ranges is at a much greater threat from barely restrained suburban development than it is from 3, 6 or a dozen wind turbines. That it is at threat in the above scenario from the elevated risk of bushfires and drought, and also extreme weather events, is a truism that is tedious to repeat. Are you taking any action, as your portfolio would seem to demand, to introduce (as was promised by Matthew Guy before the election) Statement of Planning Policy Number 8 to protect the environment and population of your very own electorate?

    I would like to see some real leadership from you and your party on this issue, rather than the stale old unprofitable (in its broadest, most radical sense) ‘business as usual’, approach. This last can be seen to be largely to the benefit of corporate interests, and not to the benefit of the people that you are meant to be representing.

    I would like a reply to these questions, please, and not a form letter.

    Mark Horner, Woodend

  7. Another great letter that has been published locally:

    Dear Editor

    Donna Petrovitch didn’t consult the local community before she and her gang ripped wind energy out of Victoria’s economic future. She and her cohorts have made sure that investment in this burgeoning renewable resource will go interstate. People talk about industries ‘wanting certainty’. Well they’ve got it here – Victoria is a no go zone for the development of the lucrative increasingly popular renewable energy sector, which can augment farm incomes as well as increase employment, as long as the Liberal/Nationals are in coalition government. The losses to Victorian rural people are incalculable.

    Also, we should ask whether Ms. Petrovitch has investments herself in the coal seam gas industry? If so, this banishing of the wind energy industry interstate takes on a different complexion.

    Yours faithfully
    Wendy Radford

  8. No comment from Donna yet. I’m not holding my breath, as she’s been ducking this one for months. I’ll edit it and send it to The Age this week. Maybe the locals as well.

  9. The 2km buffer came out of discussions with residents that were to have turbines imposed on them. It is also based on buffer distances from other parts of the world and from turbine developers such as the Retexo Grupp which recommend a 2km buffer. The buffer is based on fairness.

    1. Not really Peter, the 2 km buffer introduced by Baillieu did not exist anywhere else around the world at the time. There was no true consultation, just a knee-jerk reaction to the BS promoted by your landscape Guardian mates. I saw it all here years ago when the Liberal party and Nats fell over themselves to please the prom coast guardians. A noisy minority with connections to the Liberal party.

    2. So Peter, if you know that ‘The 2km buffer came out of discussions with residents that were to have turbines imposed on them’, then please explain the process.

      You often like to imply that you know whats going on. Its time to pony up: where were the consultations and how did they happen?

  10. Something that is 450 feet tall and cast a shadow 3.5km long can disturb some people with the noise they make require a buffer distance please get over it Blair

    1. Peter, I can understand your embarrassment at being caught out telling a porky regarding the 2 km buffer but you really are stretching it with the shadows compliant. Maybe you aren’t aware of the fact that the sun moves through the sky and the long shadow is only a temporary condition and it doesn’t occur in the same spot every day?

      1. No porkies at Blair. The government listened to the people involved. It is you, Cam and Ben that dont listen or care. Work on a 2km buffer from mines an quarries.

      2. Peter, your concerns about the rights of people might have some substance if those concerns applied to everybody but unfortunately Ms Petrovich is notably silent on concerns from those people who’s properties will soon be enjoying the presence of CSG drillers or those nice folks at Portland and East Gippsland who will be benefiting from an expanded coalmine hundred metres from their back fence.

        I have no doubt that some people have convinced themselves wind turbines are ugly or noisy but your selective concern along with that of our current state government and the fact they have connections to mining interests makes me think your professed concerns about people’s rights are, at best, confected and I have to wonder what your real motives are.

        As for developers, particularly land developers, under Baillieu they are able to get favoured treatment and bypass zoning regulations, a good example of that is going on right now on the outskirts of Leongatha. Again, this state government seems to operate on a mates basis.

        By all means let’s have fairness but I have to wonder why your idea of fairness is so selective.

    2. You would have to possess very highly enhanced (i.e., super-human) visual acuity to detect a shadow from an object located 3.5kms away. Most shadows, even from the tallest and broadest objects, are undetectable by the human eye beyond about 500m. The shadows are simply diluted by diffuse light and backscatter of photons. In some situations a shadow may be noticable beyond 1km distance, but this happens rarely. Don’t let physics get in the way of your objections to wind turbines over 3km away…
      Buffer distances had always previously been based on measurable noise limits (a non-arbitrary method).

  11. as usual, a wonderful non answer from Peter. He tells us there was consultation, but won’t give details. Its not a hard question: if ”The government listened to the people involved’ then how? Why are you so afraid to explain the process? (and more importantly, why is a member of parliament afraid/ unwilling to explain?).

    We are talking about significant policy development here, why is there no process?

    1. In Macedon Ranges ( where Ms Petrovich was a councillor) we had a 2 year public consultation period and the finding was for a 2km buffer which was rejected by Madden after being passed by council which was pro wind. I again ask you Cam why do you not care about the rights of people that will have wind turbines imposed on them through sham consultation conducted by wind energy cowboys. At least now all know where we stand with planning unlike under the previous where the developers could do what they wanted

      1. Wind energy developers were never in a position where they “could do what they wanted”. Guidelines and planning rules dictated what could or could not be done. These rules used to be based on something measurable, as opposed to an arbitrary buffer based on what may be subjectively disliked.

  12. Thanks Peter, thats actually something of an answer. Still a bit light on for detail. What did this local council consultation look like and how does that then inform what state government does?

    There is not a piece of evidence that has been released by anyone in Gov to suggest there has been due process in creating the No Go zones (and we certainly had no consultation in Mt Alexander shire, also subject to a No Go zone).

    I worry about (and work with) people who have developments imposed on them. But I do find the antis obsession with turbines strange when i look at all the impacts on the landscape and communities. For instance, the Sunbury landscape ‘guardians’ getting concerned that turbines at Gisborne would be visible from the Memorial Cross at Mt Macedon… what about the freeways, the low density urban sprawl, the obvious pine plantations at the base of the mountain (ecological deserts), the broad acre clearance of native veg across the foothills? The CBD of Melbourne in the distance? the phone towers that already dot many of the high points? Why obsess about turbines?

    1. Cam, I’m really glad that we made such an impression but come on, the Sunbury meeting was more than a year and a half ago. Are you really that scarred? It’s ironic that you talk about the anti’s ‘obsession’. Please, for your own sake, let it go!
      As for the other issues you mention, I’d say that they are not as intrusive, they don’t move constantly and the majority of us moved here with them already in place. This is all aside from the fact that they actually serve a purpose and their benefits outweigh the inconvenience. See below.
      From the AEMO Energy Update – May 2012
      “As in previous years, wind farm output was highly variable due to the inherently intermittent nature of wind generation. A review of wind performance over the [summer] period showed a tendency for wind generator output to be low at times of high demand. This is addressed in our reserve assessment by using the 90% probability of exceedance forecast for wind output, which is a small proportion of the maximum possible output.”
      So whilst the efficiency figure may (or may not) be around the 30% mark for Wind Turbines, that is but one issue. This 30% must be produced when it is needed. The AMEO report indicates that this tends not to be the case so a 10% might be more appropriate.

      [from Cam: So, if a group says something patently dumb like the suggestion that a few turbines might be a visual blight in an incredibly modified landscape at considerable distance, i should ‘let it go’ rather than hold them to account. Rather convenient for people saying dumb things, I would have thought].

      1. Todd, if we were trying to achieve dispatchable peak electricity from wind turbines your final comments might have merit. But that’s not what turbines are for. They are effectively replacing fossil fuel power. South Australia’s AEMO figures are clear on that – 31% wind power, carbon emissions down. They might be operating often at night or outside peak times, but I don’t think the climate cares what time of day the carbon is emitted, right? As long as they are replacing the coal and gas it’s working.

        30% as a turbine capacity factor is also not the whole story. That is an average over a year. In actual fact, the turbines would be generating some power most of the time.

        The idea that you can ban them from a whole shire, because locals don’t like newfangled things (which seems to be what you are saying, other than misinterpreting AEMO) seems a bit over the top. I don’t think planning law would function on those principles. I also doubt that it represents the views of the whole shire very fairly, but I’m sure we’ll continue that debate.

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