Renewable energy is a mainstream election issue in the hotly-contested seat of Macedon.
Anti-wind farm laws introduced by the Coaltion government in 2011 have hit the Macedon Ranges hard. A large-scale blanket ban on wind farms now cuts across the electorate. The anti-wind farm laws have cost the region jobs, investment and killed off a community wind farm proposal in Woodend.
Liberal candidate for Macedon Donna Petrovich has expressed support for community wind farms to be exempt from the government’s restrictions on wind farms. Only weeks ago, Petrovich referred to the campaign to protect Hanging Rock to justify her objection to dumping the restrictions on wind energy. She told The Age:
“A reversion to the ALP policy would mean no planning controls, no two-kilometre buffer, no right of objection – and that is undemocratic. If you look at the way the community reacted here for a proposal for a single-story conference facility in the east paddock of Hanging Rock, I do not think the community would tolerate large-scale wind turbines in this place,” she says.
This statement made by Donna Petrovich rang alarm bells for many community members.
The “Respect the Rock” campaign has worked tirelessly over the last two years to engage the council with community consultation processes regarding Hanging Rock. The council failed to bring the community into the decision-making process when it fast tracked development of a conference centre adjacent to the sacred Hanging Rock area.
The people of the Macedon Ranges community are smart and they are engaged. They know when they are being left out in the cold by their elected representatives.When council sought to leave residents out of the Hanging Rock conversation, more than 6000 spoke out, and the State Government listened. The same State Government, through a blanket ban on wind turbines since 2011, seeks to muzzle the conversation on wind energy in the Macedon Ranges.
I have been a campaigner for Hanging Rock for more than a year. Working on this issue taught me a great deal about the community’s aspirations for the Macedon Ranges. Some wish to see it preserved as it is. Others believe any development is beneficial to the region. Most occupy the middle ground, believing that there is a place for sensitive and appropriate development while retaining the shire’s rural character. The common belief, regardless of political leanings, is that locals deserve a say on development in our region. Wind energy is one such issue worthy of a conversation, at the very least.
The council sought to deny the community a voice on Hanging Rock, and the community reacted to demand that voice.
In the same way, State Government planning controls have denied the Macedon Ranges community a voice on renewable energy wind projects. Locals deserve their say.
Whether it is the issue surrounding ill-conceived development at Hanging rock or the prohibition of wind farms, communities should have a means of democratic participation in decisions that affect their region.
Recent Polling commissioned by the Climate Institute finds 71 per cent of Victorians support state government policies that encourage more renewable energy. So then why does the Coalition choose to stall renewable energy by maintaining it’s anti-wind laws and rhetoric?
Lets take a closer look at where the parties stand.
When it comes to removing roadblocks to renewables, the Labor party has vowed to ‘rip up’ the Coalition government’s anti-wind farm laws. The Greens also support restoring fair laws for wind farms in the state. The Liberal candidate for Macedon, Donna Petrovich, as well as Liberal MPs Andrew Katos and Simon Ramsay, have flagged support for exempting community wind farms from the restrictive planning laws.
When it comes encouraging the rollout of renewables, The Greens have endorsed our call for a Victorian Renewable Energy Target that works alongside a national RET scheme. The party calls for the establishment of a ‘for-profit’ Solar Bank owned by Victorians to help the state reach its 5 per cent solar target by 2020.
The Labor opposition has offered conditional support for a Victorian Renewable Energy Target. Labor’s Back to Work policy commits the party to “Establish a $200 million Future Industries Fund to drive the six high-growth sectors” including “new energy technologies.” The opposition also announced a $200 million Regional Jobs Fund that will support job-creating projects, including “companies investing in renewable energy.”
The Coalition still has time to adopt pro-renewable energy policies before November 29. The window of opportunity is there, but it’s closing.
- Join us at Hepburn Wind’s, Sleep Under The Stars celebration on Saturday November 15. The event features live music, art, open-air cinema, food trucks, camping and more. For more details, just click here!
- Sign our petition calling on Premier Napthine to encourage renewable energy jobs by scrapping anti-wind farm laws and setting a Victorian Renewable Energy Target.
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