PORTLAND is under economic strain due to a downturn in the renewable energy sector, a former mayor has claimed.
Glenelg Shire councillor Gilbert Wilson said the loss of 100 jobs at Portland manufacturer Kepple Prince last year had a devastating impact on the city with retailers hit particularly hard.
The turbine manufacturer made the decision due to uncertainty over the federal government’s renewable energy target (RET) although the future of the initiative is expected to be clarified soon.
Cr Wilson, who is also a Kepple Prince employee, told a Senate panel hearing this week that Portland needed a robust wind energy industry.
The former Glenelg Shire mayor acknowledged concern from some residents about infra-sound but said that should not impede development.
“I’ve got no problems with looking at the problems with infra-sound, the health troubles some people believe is connected to wind farms,” Cr Wilson said.
“What I’m disillusioned with is yet another Senate inquiry into wind farms which is stifling confidence in the renewable energy sector at a time when there needs to be investment.”
Cr Wilson said several Portland businesses had closed and other retailers were considering their future.
“We had a toy shop in town close recently, another business also closed their doors and retail conditions aren’t as strong as they were this time last year,” he said.
“There’s no doubt the job losses had an impact but there’s still opportunity for the renewable energy target to be cleared up.”
Keppel Prince assistant general manager Daniel McKinna said he was pleased the Senate inquiry listened to the views of the Portland delegation.
“We’re at the other end of the infra-sound debate in that we’re the manufacturers but I think everyone in the sector wants that area to be looked at,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean we should stifle the wind farm sector.
“The lack of certainty over the renewable energy target is a big concern for us, so it was good to speak to some of the crossbenchers and government senators about the link between the target and regional development, particularly in the Portland region.”