Wednesday, 18 August 2010


27 May 2010 COUNCIL

Mr KAVANAGH (Western Victoria) -- My question is to the Minister for Planning, Mr Madden, and relates to approval guidelines for wind farms. On 27 April this year, in rejecting The Sisters wind farm proposal near Mortlake, VCAT (Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal) determined that the appropriate standards for making planning decisions on wind farms are the New Zealand standards of 2010 -- an update of the 1998 New Zealand standards. The 2010 standards effectively offer marginally more protection to local residents than the outdated 1998 standards. The minister has called in the Yaloak South project, which is very similar in scale to The Sisters proposal and would probably not comply with the 2010 standard and would therefore probably not have got approval from VCAT. The Department of Planning and Community Development has, however, officially stated, as of two days ago, that, and I quote, 'the DPCD uses the New Zealand 1998 standard for determining wind farm standards'. Would it not be more appropriate in 2010 to apply 2010 standards rather than outdated, 12-year-old standards, even if this means that projects the minister might personally support might not go ahead?

Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I welcome Mr Kavanagh's interest in these matters.

There is a great deal of interest in the policy positions of parties in this state in relation to wind farms. There is interest on a number of fronts in relation to wind farms, particularly because, as Mr Kavanagh mentioned, of the new New Zealand standards for wind farms that have been introduced this year. We are particularly interested in those new standards, and we are committed as a government to ensuring that the best standards are introduced. We are currently undertaking work at a national level with other jurisdictions to make sure that any upgrade, update or consideration given to improving those standards is done on the basis of a national approach.

I recognise the interest of many people in the community in the introduction of the new New Zealand standards, and I am also very enthusiastic about that being undertaken. But we are committed to a national approach on wind farms and we are committed to having a national standard through agreements with other jurisdictions.

There will always be those who advocate strongly for or against wind farms for various reasons, and there is legitimacy on both fronts as to why people may or may not consider wind farms appropriate for whatever reason. I certainly welcome people's opportunity to have input to that. That is why I recently -- --

Honourable members interjecting.

Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- That is why I agreed to the request of the Moorabool shire to ensure that the cumulative impacts of the wind farm facilities that have been applied for or are being considered in its jurisdiction. I was conscious of the need to have cumulative impacts considered when you have a number of wind facilities located close to each other. As part of that there will be an opportunity for those who feel strongly one way or the other to make their representations to advisory committees in relation to these projects.

Those matters can then be considered in a coordinated manner and in relation to the cumulative impacts.

As a government we have a great deal of enthusiasm for wind projects, but we also recognise the need to have them thoroughly considered, particularly on technical merit and technical grounds. We have also listened to local government, which has said to us -- and said directly to me quite recently -- that, given the technical requirements, the high degree of complexity and the need for significant investment in the assessment and monitoring of these applications and these facilities, it would prefer the government become the relevant authority for all projects, not just for projects of over 30 megawatts.

We have listened to communities and local governments in relation to this. We have certainly listened to the Moorabool shire's request to have these matters dealt with by the government.

As such I have nominated that I will become the relevant authority.

It is also worth considering that there is a significant process by which an independent advisory committee will hear submissions, assess the technical merit on all fronts of these projects and provide advice to me and the department on these projects. I look forward to that. I recognise the issues they may raise may even include those new standards or relevant issues in relation to those standards.

Supplementary question

Mr KAVANAGH (Western Victoria) -- I thank the minister for the answer. But is not the real reason that outdated standards are used because it may allow the department to say wind farms are a nuisance and even do damage to neighbouring properties?

Hon. J. M. MADDEN (Minister for Planning) -- I welcome Mr Kavanagh's question. Can I just pick up on Mr Kavanagh's impression that wind farms might do damage to neighbours or to communities. That is a pejorative term that Mr Kavanagh has chosen to use which I do not think complements the needs and the matters that should be considered by communities and by the relevant authorities and the independent process by which these projects are assessed. Any project of any stature in any community that requires a planning permit will allow people to make comment, and I think that comment is a good thing.

Some would say that wind farms are not good; some would say they are fantastic. I have an open mind on all fronts to any project that comes before me and that requires a decision. I would suggest that each project should be considered on its merits, should be considered appropriately by the independent panel and should be considered not only on its technical merits but also the justification in relation to the location and all those other issues that warrant consideration. That should determine whether a project is or is not a good project.

I expect that appropriate decisions will be made, on the basis of that advice.

However, to suggest that all wind farm or wind turbine projects are damaging is one step too far, because at the end of the day, they provide jobs in local communities, they provide cleaner energy and they provide economic development across regional Victoria, not only for those immediate locations but for the other industries that maintain services and complement the industry in regional Victoria.

I recognise Mr Kavanagh's concern, and I realise there are those in the community who feel strongly about these projects. It is important to recognise that. I also recognise that there are people who feel strongly and positively towards these sorts of projects. Both of those positions have to be considered in relation to any project on its merits.

Honourable members interjecting.

Hon. J. M. MADDEN -- It is interesting to hear the comments from the opposition members in relation to these projects. Straightaway they are taking a position where, obviously from the comments I have heard across the chamber today, they do not believe any wind farm project has any merit. We have seen that through the policy announcements made by Mr Baillieu recently, that he would be quite happy to stymie this fledgling industry at a time when it is more important than ever to deliver jobs to regional Victoria and, in relation to energy provision, not only into regional Victoria but more broadly into Victoria, clean energy which complements the traditional energy provision that has taken place in this state.

I recognise Mr Kavanagh's interest in these matters. I recognise that he has a particular view. I do not necessarily agree with that view. I believe that each project should be assessed on its merits and all the technical provisions that need to be considered.

I also recognise from the comments made by the likes of Mr Finn and others on the opposition back benches and front benches that they have a jaundiced view of wind energy in this state. Unfortunately that jaundiced view has informed their policy position, which would kill wind energy in this state overnight.


Peter Kavanagh MLC
Member for Western Victoria
Parliament of Victoria

"La Cabine"
2nd Floor
1 Yarra Street
Geelong VIC 3220

Ph: 03 5222 1503
Fax: 03 5222 8677


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