Delburn wind farm to go ahead

LATROBE Valley residents have lost their fight to stop the proposed 200 megawatt Delburn wind farm in the Strzelecki Ranges after the Supreme Court found that the Victorian Planning Minister’s permit for the wind farm was valid.

A community group, Strezlecki Community Alliance, had challenged the approval of the Delburn wind farm, alleging permits breached a local planning requirement not to build wind farm infrastructure within five kilometres of the urban areas of Moe, Morwell and Traralgon.

Supreme Court Justice Melinda Richards found no part of the wind farm was within 5km of the three towns.

“The permits granted by the Minister on 27 March 2022 are not contrary to the five kilometre prohibition in clause 52.32 of the Latrobe Planning Scheme,” Justice Richards wrote in her decision. “The proceeding must therefore be dismissed.”

Peter Marriott, executive director development of the renewable energy developer, OSMI Australia, said he was pleased with the Supreme Court outcome.

“This provides certainty for the Delburn wind farm to proceed, and we are actively working to bring the project into construction in early 2024,” Mr Marriott said.

“We are excited to be able to invest in the region and create local jobs. We are now focused on getting on with building the wind farm and contributing to a much needed transition to renewable energy for Latrobe Valley and Gippsland.

“The Delburn Wind Farm will produce renewable energy, reduce carbon emissions, and create local employment.”

Overlooking the site of the dismantled Hazelwood Power Station, the Delburn wind farm project on plantation land in the Delburn area covering the HVP Plantations’ Thorpdale tree farm. The site is generally bounded by Coalville to the north, Thorpdale to the west, Darlimurla to the south, and Boolarra and Yinnar to the east.

OSMI Australia says the Delburn Wind Farm will provide more than 186 full time jobs during construction and 24 ongoing jobs during its 30-year operational life.

With a commitment to hiring locals, the wind farm will deliver economic benefits for local suppliers, contractors, businesses and accommodation providers, the company says.

Lawyers for the community group had argued over the proximity of the proposed site to the Latrobe Valley’s main towns. But also that nearby towns of Newborough, Boolarra, Yinnar, Thorpdale, Delburn and Mirboo North were part of a greater Latrobe City and should be included in the buffer zone.

Strezlecki Community Alliance’s counsel, Paul Connor, told the court last week that this was not a case where wind energy facilities were on trial, “They’re important assets for our state in terms of providing renewable energy, but they do have significant offsite impact,” he said.

Residents also expressed safety concerns the 33 turbines could prevent aerial support in the bushfire prone area.

Mr Connor said the community group was open to relocating some of the turbines further from the three towns, which he defined as a regional city under the relevant legislation.

While the planning scheme recognised Moe-Newborough as a single urban settlement, there was no mention of Newborough or the other towns in the planning scheme clause regarding wind farm proximity requirements, Justice Richards’ decision read.

Friends of the Earth welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision, saying building a wind farm in a plantation site is an effective way to protect the natural environment as the plantation is already a highly modified industrial site.

“Our energy system is changing, the Latrobe Valley has a proud history of energy production and it is great to see that the Valley will continue to play a part in Victoria’s energy production” said Wendy Farmer, Latrobe Valley resident and community organiser for Friends of the Earth Melbourne.

Trevor Hore, from the local resident’s group Strzelecki Sustainable Futures, said his group had campaigned for many years in support of the wind farm.

“We welcome the court’s decision to validate the planning permit and are looking forward to seeing the wind farm constructed,” he said.

Speaking after the court decision, Mr Marriott said the Delburn wind farm would work with the community to ensure it delivers long term benefits to the surrounding communities.

“We invite community members to join our Community Consultative Committee to help shape the generous neighbourhood profit-sharing scheme and community development fund,” Mr Marriott said.

“We want the local community to determine how the neighbourhood profit share scheme should be shared. This includes delivering about $500,000 per annum directly to the neighbourhood area near the wind farm, on top of the committed $150,000 community fund per annum.

“We also want to hear from any residents who are concerned or opposed to the wind farm development – it’s not too late to discuss your concerns, ask questions and let us work with you to share information and understanding.”

The company says information updates are an important part of the Delburn wind farm community engagement program and will increase in frequency as the wind farm project develops.

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