The Baillieu government has done its best to hide its distaste for renewable energy since introducing the anti-wind farm planning amendment VC82 almost a year ago. Last Friday, the first cracks in the Coalition’s public position appeared when the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) found Minister for Planning Matthew Guy had not responded to information provided by wind energy company Mitsui in ‘reasonable time.’
VCAT’s determination on the Department of Planning’s handling of the Bald Hills wind farm project application reveals what appears to be a deliberate attempt by the government to slow down wind energy approvals process. “The only conclusion that can be drawn,” says Friends of the Earth campaigns co-ordinator Cam Walker, “is that the government is acting to frustrate wind energy development.”
In the case of the Bald Hills project, the wind energy company Mitsui only had until 19 August to commence work and for required plans to be approved by the Minister before construction could start. They had submitted all required documents yet not received sign off from the Minister.
For a large-scale project comprising of 52 turbines and 104 megawatts of generation capacity, it takes more than a few days to start construction. With August 19 just around the corner, the Minister’s tardiness disrupts project management and planning.
Cam Walker explains the Baillieu government’s tactics:
“It appears that the government is using two inconsistent narratives when it comes to wind energy. On the one hand the Planning Minister points to the fact that more than 1,000 turbines have been approved by the previous state government but not yet built, so the government cannot be accused of trying to halt the industry. But on the other hand, approvals processes have gone so slowly that a project stood to lose it’s permit through no fault of it’s own”.
“The government cannot have it both ways. Either it supports the further development of the wind sector and commits to amend the regressive VC82 planning guidelines and revert to evidence-based planning policy. Or it gives up attempting to convince anyone that it is not running an anti-wind agenda”.
“Based on the evidence we have seen with the creation of arbitrary ‘no go’ zones and the unwillingness of the government to release details on how they set the boundaries for these regions we can only conclude the Baillieu government is deliberately pushing investment in renewables out of the state.”
The Baillieu government has two choices: It can maintain the status quo and forego the economic and environmental benefits of the shift to renewable energy sources; or, it can restore sensible planning guidelines and once again make Victoria ‘the place to be’ for wind energy. All it will take the Premier and Planning Minister is a few strokes of a pen.