DOZENS of local people, who applied unsuccessfully for jobs at the $300 million Bald Hills Wind Farm site, want answers.
So do those most impacted by the development of a major industrial facility on farming land at Tarwin Lower-Walkerville, the neighbours.
The community also wants to know why Bald Hills Wind Farm Pty Ltd has failed so spectacularly to deliver on its promise of local jobs as one of the main benefits of hosting a 52-turbine power plant.
“The project will boost the local community by creating local jobs during the construction of the wind farm…”
But it hasn’t.
It still makes that boast on the Bald Hills Wind Farm website which a group of unemployed local tradesmen and construction labourers find galling.
They say they were duded for jobs on the project after being led along by the firm’s recruiting agency (see attached story).
So far, the developers have declined numerous requests to provide details about the number of locals employed among the 250-plus employees on the worksite or the number of local contractors used.
But executives of the company will get their chance on Wednesday, May 21 when they front the South Gippsland Shire Council to provide an update on the project at a public briefing session.
Any member of the community is allowed to attend to hear what they have to say.
Having so far failed to keep Bald Hills Pty Ltd to its promise about local jobs, the shire’s officer in charge of economic development, Phil Stone, says he is prepared to “ask the question” if no one else does.
“But it’s not our job to hold them accountable,” said Mr Stone, the shire’s Development Services Director.
He sat there in September 2012 when the General Manager of Bald Hills Pty Ltd, Matthew Croome made the jobs’ promise to council and the community at a public meeting but he told the ‘Sentinel-Times’ last week that it was not a condition of their permit to build, which incidentally wasn’t issued by Council, that they employ local people.
“We can’t be expected to hold businesses accountable for the amount of local people they employ but we can certainly encourage them to employ as many local people as they can.
“Our role is to attract business and investment, to say where that development should occur and to hold business accountable for the conditions relating to that development.
“But it is not a condition of their planning permit that they employ local people.”
So, who does hold Bald Hills Pty Ltd accountable?
No one it seems.
But the promise of local jobs was made nonetheless and the council and community has a right to expect Mr Croome to provide an explanation.
“If you don’t ask the question, I’ll probably ask it myself,” Mr Stone said.
“But as for going around to people’s business premises or calling them on the phone to ask them how many locals they are employing; I don’t think that’s likely to be part of our brief.”
Mr Stone said it was his understanding that several local businesses and contractors had supplied services to the project but he was unable to say if this would have a significant impact on the economy.