A decade's worth of frustration has surfaced in Corangamite Shire's bare-faced submission to the planning department stating the council wants its strategic priorities to be recognised in the pursuit of green energy.
Councillors unanimously voted to submit a draft response to VicGrid's acting chief executive officer Alistair Parker on Tuesday night, outlining the council's qualms with a key planning document.
Its submission on the Victorian Transmission Investment Framework Preliminary Design stated "ad hoc" large-scale development often occurred "in absence of" regional and local benefit.
"A key issue with the VTIF and Renewable Energy Zone Development Plan is a lack of strategic basis to underpin and take into account local and regional strategic priorities and state-wide land use planning direction," the council wrote.
"This essentially creates a 'cart before the horse' scenario with the identification of REZs effectively locked-in and leaving a conundrum of how much more renewable energy development will occur.
"This future uncertainty is a primary issue for the council and the community."
Councillors have consistently raised issues regarding planning for renewable energy development, declaring it should not be undertaken with "a sole focus on new generation, existing transmission infrastructure and projects".
In its most recent show of opposition the council wrote to the planning minister criticising the "willy-nilly" $235 million battery energy storage system proposed for Terang.
In March it again made a submission to the Victorian planning minister opposing key elements of the $6 million Cobden Solar Farm stating the 22.26 hectare, 5MW solar energy facility failed to take into account council priorities.
In 2020 it urged the then planning minister Richard Wynne to put ACEnergy's 1.5 hectare battery storage system proposed for Terang back in community hands.
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Deputy mayor Geraldine Conheady said she was concerned about the concentration of renewable development in the municipality.
"With the flurry of new projects proposed in the south-west we still have no idea how many more renewable developments will occur in our region," she said.
"This uncertainty is a real concern and this concern extends to the potential for multiple renewable projects and transmission infrastructure in a concentrated area.
"We are trying to ensure our communities and the shire are properly considered and that our communities do have social licence and are properly consulted and engaged."
She said agricultural prosperity and the preservation of rural lifestyle were key goals for the shire when considering its national contribution.
An analysis of latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data by Food and Fibre Great South Coast revealed Corangamite Shire was the eighth most valuable agricultural region in the nation.
The natural resource management area - together with the Glenelg Hopkins catchment - contributed more than $4.6 billion in production over the 2019-20 period.
"(We want to ensure) the rural amenity and enjoyment or rural lifestyle is taken into account, our environmental resources are considered and we aren't left with multiple cumulative impacts," Cr Conheady said.
"We know Corangamite Shire's prosperity emanates from agriculture and tourism. It's essential these industries are valued in the VTIF document by statewide land use planning.
"We are trying to ensure our key industries that provide most of our jobs and GDP and are significant contributors to the state and national economies are not left out of state strategic planning for renewables."
South-central ward councillor Jo Beard said the council felt unheard for a number of years.
"We've been getting really concerned over a number of years now," she said.
"That cumulative impact - once one comes in, there's just no regard as to when does it stop. We've got to utilise these opportunities where we can have our say on behalf of the community.
"This submission captures so many subjects and content of what we've been worrying about but trying to get our point across as to why we can appreciate the process but why we need to get it right."
She said there was often an "imbalance" between what the council and green energy applicants wanted to achieve.
"We've had those conversations when we've had briefings with renewable energy applicants around cost-saving and we'll do whatever is most cost-efficient but that's where we conflict," Cr Beard said.
"We know our community is sick of seeing all the transmission lines taking up our landscape. We really want them to go underground and there are better ways of getting it done.
"Then when you see it black and white in the proposed VTIF planning process ... the purpose says (it) delivers timely transmission investments at the lowest cost.
"So are we wasting our breath by saying 'this is how we think it should be'? It really worries me that there's an imbalance around what they see is the best way forward but we don't see that either for our community.
"That's where we need to stay the course and keep getting our voices heard."
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