The firm constructing the massive 52 turbine wind farm at Bald Hills near Tarwin Lower may have to relocate two or more of the 120 metre high structures after an eleventh hour directive from the Planning Minister Matthew Guy.
THE controversial $400 million Bald Hills Wind Farm, near Tarwin Lower, has hit another potentially costly snag.
Two of the project’s 52 turbines have been put up in the wrong place, hundreds of metres away from their original location in the approved site plan, and will have to be moved for the facility to comply with its planning conditions.
Another 18 turbines, which have also been positioned away from their approved locations, have been allowed to remain where they are under the ‘micro-siting’ conditions of the project’s planning permit.
But they may not be out of the woods yet with local opponents of the wind farm preparing to challenge the siting of some of these turbines on the grounds that they are now closer to their homes than they were before.
The South Gippsland Shire Council has confirmed this week that it received notification from the Minister for Planning Matthew Guy last Friday, October 31, prior to the commencement of the Caretaker Period on Tuesday, November 4, about his ruling on the ‘Secondary Consent’ application from Bald Hills Wind Farm Pty Ltd.
Walkerville resident, Don Fairbrother, whose view out the front window of his picture postcard rural home is now dominated by these massive structures, is taking cold comfort from the ruling by the Minister.
“The Minister for Planning has just notified the responsible authority, the South Gippsland Shire Council, that he has allowed 18 of the turbines to be micro-sited, which I think is within 85 metres of their original locations.
“But he has not allowed turbines 17 and 33 to be moved as far as they were and they will have to be taken down and moved to their original position.
“This triggers another problem for Bald Hills, we believe,” said Mr Fairbrother.
“In July this year the Minister signed off on an amendment to the State’s planning scheme, section 52.32, which automatically applies to the South Gippsland Shire’s planning scheme as well.
“It states that any turbines, within two kilometres of private property, cannot be moved closer to a residence without the permission of the land owner.
“And I know they have moved one of their turbines, Turbine 10, closer to my house and they didn’t get my permission.
“There are almost certainly a number of others that have been moved closer to houses and they haven’t complied with Section 52.32 and sought permission from the other home owners.
“It’s up to the shire, as the responsible authority to appoint an independent surveyor to go on site and check the location of the turbines.
“Neither the shire nor the proponent can do it themselves. They need to measure if the claims about the siting can be verified,” he said.
Mr Fairbrother said there had been a similar experience at the Crookwell wind farm near Yass where the proponent was ordered to move nine of the turbines.
Mr Fairbrother predicted it would lead to huge costs for Bald Hill WF and its construction company.
“It’s important that these companies, who are acting like cowboys, are made to comply.
“If you or I went out and moved the location of a house or didn’t do something according to the planning permit, they’d come down hard.
“They can’t be allowed to get away with it and the shire should act now,” he said.
Breached the Act
Section 52.32-3 of the Act (31-7-2014) applying to Wind Energy Facilities, lays down the following conditions in relation to turbines sited within two kilometres of a dwelling.
“An application that includes a proposed turbine within two kilometres of an existing dwelling must be accompanied by:
• A plan showing all dwellings within two kilometres of a proposed turbine.
• Evidence of the written consent of any owner as at the date of that application of an existing dwelling located within two kilometres of a proposed turbine that forms part of a Wind energy facility. In relation to permits issued prior to 15 March 2011 this does not apply to an application to amend such a permit under Section 72 or Section 97I of the Act unless the amendment of the permit would:
• Increase the number of proposed turbines; or
• Change the location of a proposed turbine so as to reduce the distance between any proposed turbine and an existing dwelling.
“This does not apply to a Wind Energy Facility that is located on land in a residential zone, an industrial zone, a commercial zone or a special purpose zone.”
It will be interesting to see whether approved micro-siting of 18 of the turbines amounts to compliance with the Act or whether Bald Hills Wind Farm Pty Ltd should have got the landowners’ permission as well.