State Labor vows to dump wind farm restrictions

LABOR has promised to save Victoria’s wind industry by dumping strict planning laws if it wins government at the next state election. 

The opposition’s planning spokesman Brian Tee told The Standard yesterday that laws giving landowners power to veto turbines within two kilometres of their homes would be repealed if Labor wins. 

Labor would also scrap an additional law banning turbines within five kilometres of major townships. 

The news has been welcomed by wind groups who have been campaigning heavily against the law which was introduced by former premier Ted Baillieu in 2011. 

Earlier this month The Standard reported that a proposed 145-turbine project at Willatook had been downsized in part because of the setback law while another project in Naroghid was scrapped all together when it had to update its permit to include the rule. 

Mr Tee argued the laws had “strangled” the industry. 

“One of the first things I will do as planning minister is rip up those constraints,” he said. 

“We think the two-kilometre setback zone is extreme and has cost thousands of jobs. Under our policy we will get the balance right. It has closed down the industry.” 

Mr Tee said Labor would be guided by relaxed planning measures operating in South Australia, where several new wind farms have been announced this year. 

The government responded swiftly yesterday with Premier Denis Napthine saying: “The fact is, in Victoria there are more than 1000 turbines with approval that can be built now, but companies are not prepared to construct them. 

“After an initial burst of activity, the wind industry has experienced a slow down due to the way the federal Labor government mishandled renewable energy certificates,” Dr Napthine said. 

“These setbacks provide a buffer zone between residential addresses where people live and wind towers.” 

Victorian Wind Alliance co-ordinator Andrew Bray said Victoria was the only state in Australia with such a law. 

“Even internationally, there’s nothing like it anywhere else,” Mr Bray said. 

He said just one wind farm had been approved since the introduction of setbacks in 2011.

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