A PLANNING application for the Naroghid wind farm was rejected this week, with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) stating the “net community benefit weighs against the proposal”.
The case was directed to VCAT after the Minister for Planning failed to make a decision on a planning application for a 12 turbine wind farm at Naroghid in 2018.
In the decision, VCAT stated it was acknowledged there were aspects of the proposal which weighed in its favour, including the delivery of renewable energy and its minimisation of amenity impacts on nearby properties.
However, the tribunal did not consider the benefits to outweigh:
- The material impact the proposal would have on the safety of current aviation operations at the Cobden airfield. Measures needed to address the safety impacts on the efficient use of the Cobden airfield, and gave rise to a new land use conflict between aircraft operations and the amenity of Cobden residents; and
- The potential impacts arising from the location of the site within the flight range of local roosting sites of the Southern Bent-wing Bat. The bat species is one of Victoria’s few critically endangered mammals.
The proposed 12 turbine wind farm, if approved, would have put the Cobden Airport at risk, according to the Cobden Aeroclub which launched a campaign to save the airstrip.
Cobden Aeroclub spokesperson Duncan Morris said he was “absolutely delighted” with the decision.
He said notification on the decision was delivered late Monday afternoon.
“It’s as strong as a decision we could have hoped for,” Mr Morris said.
“They (VCAT) have not allowed anything to go ahead.
“From our perspective, it’s terrific to be vindicated.”
He thanked the community for its ongoing support.
Mr Morris said the campaign to “save the airstrip” had been going on for a number of years.
“We want to thank the entire town and community for getting behind us over a number of years,” he said.
“We’ve had fantastic support.”
The VCAT tribunal’s findings were critical of Naroghid wind farm proponent Alinta Energy in a number of aspects, including submitting expert evidence on the impact of the Cobden Airfield late in the proceedings.
“In our view, this ‘moving feast’ of analysis of issues on the run, formulation of response and further recommendations is symptomatic of a failure of the applicant and its experts to properly consider and assess the impact of the proposal on the Cobden airfield,” the decision document stated.
“This is notwithstanding the fact that it has been clear from the outset of this proceeding that this is one of the key issues in this application.
“We have provided the applicant with more than a fair and reasonable opportunity to address us on this key issue, including our consideration of the additional expert material that was filed, which we consider was beyond the leave we had granted for additional submissions.”
Alinta Energy refused to rule out whether it would continue to push for the proposed Naroghid wind farm.
“Alinta Energy notes the decision from VCAT and will take time to review the determination and assess whether a modified proposal might be feasible,” a spokesperson said.
“We will always work to develop projects in collaboration with local communities and with safety as the highest priory.”
Moving forward, the Cobden Airport Committee of Management was expected to meet tonight (Wednesday) to discuss plans for the future of the airport.
Mr Morris said he expected the committee would push forward with plans to get the airstrip registered.