A COMMUNITY member’s removal from a committee overseeing the Crookwell Three wind farm has sparked anger.
Businessman and Woodhouselee resident Maurice Newman’s dismissal has also prompted debate about the effectiveness of community consultative committees (CCC).
NSW and Crookwell Landscape Guardians president Humphrey Price-Jones has branded them “a farce.”
Mr Newman, a former stockbroker, merchant banker and head of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s Business Advisory Council, sat on the Crookwell Three committee up until a few weeks ago.
Developer Union Fenosa removed him after claiming Mr Newman inappropriately used his political influence.
He had taken exception to an Office of Environment and Heritage representative’s attendance at a CCC meeting and made his feelings known to then Premier Barry O’Farrell.
Although other committee members had pointed out the representative was allowed to attend under the rules, Mr Newman had replied: “I think you’ll find that is being reviewed.”
Union Fenosa legal manager Thomas Mitchell said the company acted after the matter was “laid bare” in a recent Sydney Morning Herald article.
But he also highlighted other reasons.
“Mr Newman has never accepted that the CCC is not a decision making body but has seen it as a board of directors with fiduciary duties and characterised it having to act with a duty of care,” he said.
“So on the basis of this invented pretext and the fact that he has engaged in activities outside the committee to influence decisions, we removed him...It boils down to having respect for the planning process.”
Mr Newman did not deny his words at the meeting and informed the committee about his representations to the Premier.
He said one of the stated reasons for the company dismissing him was because he hadn’t furnished his correspondence with Mr O’Farrell. But Mr Newman said he was never asked for this and would have done so if requested.
“I did say that the rules were being reviewed because the Premier said he would,” he told the Post.
“I am concerned that people from the Office of Environment and Heritage can attend when they are essentially hosting afternoon teas and tours of wind farms and spruiking for hosts of turbines in our area.
“I said to (Environment Minister) Robyn Parker and Barry O’Farrell that it shouldn’t be allowed and it was inappropriate use of taxpayers’ money.
There is no subterfuge and any suggestion that I had the Premier under my control is absurd.”
He also alleged that the officer was distributing health information favourable to the wind industry.
Mr Newman said he rightly raised issues of concern on the committee, including fire risk, health impact and “loss of property value.”
“The proponent has a right to dismiss me but I would just like more honesty and integrity about why it was done,” he said.
“…The truth is that I was too challenging and because I wouldn’t acquiesce to their propaganda machine, they didn’t want me.”
Mr Price-Jones said Mr Newman was only exercising his democratic right. Both wrote to Mr O’Farrell and Ms Parker protesting the government representative’s involvement in the meeting.
“We took exception not necessarily at that person’s presence but his involvement,” Mr Price- Jones said.
“He was simply supporting the developer and engaging in discussion. We both felt it was not his role.”
The 29-turbine Crookwell Three wind farm, planned for 13km south of the town, and adjoining Crookwell Two, is awaiting Department of planning approval. The $200 million development is expected to generate 58 megawatts of power.
The company is trying to secure funding for its construction.
Union Fenosa is also looking to the ACT for power opportunities with its Crookwell Two wind farm.