Naroghid Wind Farm would have been refused

Protest: Support for the Cobden Airstrip continues which would be at risk if the Naroghid Wind Farm gains approval at VCAT.

A REPORT has revealed Minister for Planning Richard Wynne would have been recommended to refuse the Naroghid Wind Farm if he had made a decision on time.

However, Naroghid Wind Farm proponent Alinta Energy began Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) proceedings against the State Government for the minister’s failure to grant or refuse the planning permit application within the prescribed time.

Contained within an officer assessment report for the ‘Use and development of a wind energy facility (Naroghid Wind Farm)’ on behalf of the State Government, the report author detailed it would have been recommended Mr Wynne deny the application on the following grounds:

• The proposal will have unreasonable impacts on aviation;

• The proposal has not satisfactorily demonstrated the effects the wind farm will have on the southern bent-wing bat, specifically that the farm will avoid a detrimental impact;

• The shadow flicker impacts from the proposal have not been adequately avoided or mitigated; and

• The proposal is not consistent with the proper and orderly planning of the area.

Cobden Aerodrome spokesperson Duncan Morris first raised concerns with this publication about the potential for impact on the airport if the project was to go ahead last year.

“If it (the wind farm) goes ahead in the current format, it will essentially close the airport, it’s as simple as that,” he said at the time.

“We had the same discussions 12 years ago (with the previous Naroghid Wind Farm proponents) and really nothing has changed, except the towers have got closer and bigger.

“There’s less of them, but they’re all clustered down this end.”

Contained within the State Government’s report were numerous comments from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) – the government body which regulates Australian aviation safety – and the report author which effectively confirms the aerodrome members’ concerns.

“Overall, it is considered that the location of the proposed wind farm 2.5 kilometres from the runway of the Cobden Aerodrome is unacceptable,” the report states.

“In addition, the proposed wind farm could preclude the ability to increase size and operation of Cobden Aerodrome.

“Cobden Aerodrome is used for emergency (Air Ambulance and Country Fire Authority) and non-emergency (charter flights and recreational flights) transport.”

Earlier this month a VCAT practice day hearing was held, which decided not to hold a ‘compulsory conference’ scheduled for November as well as to extend the hearing from five days to eight – to be completed in two four days blocks in late January.

Mr Morris welcomed the officer assessment report, which was released prior to the VCAT practice day hearing.

“The report was excellent in that they have said if the minister made a decision it would have been to refuse the application,” he said.

“The comments in the report from CASA were extremely supportive. Particularly the turbulence sections…that turbulence is a major issue.”

Mr Morris believed the report was “supportive” of the group’s concerns.

“I would say we would feel more hopeful after the report, but we can’t assume as VCAT will still decide,” he said.

“All we can hope is that VCAT is swayed by CASA’s arguments.”

Despite the numerous concerns the report author had with the proposed Naroghid project, a spokesperson for Alinta Energy told the Cobden Timboon Coast Times the company believed it was a “great project”.

The spokesperson said the 12 turbine project would deliver affordable and sustainable power to Victorians if approved.

“We also believe the proposal is in good shape, and the aviation issue is one of the last pieces to be resolved on the project (and the primary driver for the VCAT hearing),” the spokesperson said.

“We trust the advice of our two aviation experts and look forward to having the opportunity to better understand the department’s view.”

When exhibited for comment, the Naroghid Wind Farm proposal received 27 objections including an objection petition with 380 signatures, an objection from Corangamite Shire Council, two neutral submissions from the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority and one letter of support.

When approached for comment, Mr Wynne said it was “not appropriate to comment or pre-empt the VCAT outcome”.

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