22 March, 2024

Voices must be heard

MOYNE Shire mayor Cr Ian Smith is seeking assurances from the state government that community concerns will still be heard and taken into consideration amid changes to the approval process for renewable energy projects.

Cr Smith said Moyne Shire Council was the state’s renewable energy “powerhouse” and had been involved in renewable developments and planning processes for a quarter of a century.

He said he was deeply concerned removing the independent planning panel process from renewable energy developments would erase a vital chance for the community and other stakeholders to have their say.

“The panel process was an opportunity for the community and stakeholders like council to put forward their concerns and have them heard by an independent group who then made recommendations to the Minister,” Cr Smith said.

“I want assurances from the Premier and Planning Minister that community concerns will still be heard and given due consideration - not just received and filed.

“I want to know how that process will work with the removal of planning panels and VCAT objections.”

Cr Smith said he would be reaching out to the Premier, the Minister and the department to highlight how critical it is that the views of the community (who will be hosting these projects for the next 25 years) are given the utmost respect and consideration.”

Cr Smith said Moyne Shire Council’s overarching position on renewable energy developments had not changed and it was still calling for a pause on new developments until strategic land use planning is completed.

“Moyne Shire is already home to 310 operating wind turbines with another 410 under construction or in planning - covering around 12 percent of our total land area,” he said.

“What we are asking is for the government to give consideration to the communities who are already doing the heavy lifting when it comes to these types of developments.

“It is equally critical that upfront pre-application engagement is undertaken by developers with the local communities to inform design of projects.”

Cr Smith said Moyne was in a unique position to provide advice about the on-the ground experiences its communities have had with renewable developments and what it would like to see as standard practice for new developments.

“Moyne’s experience is important to ensuring process improvement, and we would value the ability to continue to be part of that engagement with Ministers and Department,” Cr Smith said.

“We are a key stakeholder and we still expect to engage with the department; we don’t want our experience and the valid concerns and views of our communities shut out of the decision-making process.”


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