OPPONENTS of a proposed wind farm near Tarago are calling on the state government to ‘do its job.’ Community consultative committees (CCCs) are mandatory under guidelines but are nothing more than a ‘fig leaf,’ says a residents’ group.
The Residents Against Jupiter Wind Farm (RAJWF) has not ruled out political action to press their point.
Last month the group met with a senior advisor to Planning Minister and Goulburn MP Pru Goward and a departmental official in Sydney.
Member and Tarago district resident Dr Michael Crawford said the government had the power to appoint CCCs but was abrogating its responsibility and letting wind farm companies decide the make-up.
“It’s not an even handed process but they want it to look as though it is by putting it in the guidelines,” Dr Crawford said.
“The Department is not doing its job to appoint community representatives and the independent chairperson and it doesn’t pull anyone up on it. We tried to get some real change.”
Instead, Dr Crawford said the Department gave him the “soft shoe shuffle.”
His comments follow Union Fenosa’s sacking of Maurice Newman from the Crookwell Three wind farm CCC. The move sparked outrage from NSW Landscape Guardians president Humphrey Price-Jones who called on Ms Goward and the Department to intervene.
Under existing draft guidelines, the director general signs off on CCC membership. But even Union Fenosa conceded that given the draft document, the state was leaving membership up to wind farm companies.
Tarago residents at least argue this is unacceptable.
“Nowhere in the guidelines is there any latitude for the wind farm developer to have a say about choosing community reps,” resident Jane Keaney stated in a letter to the editor.
“In fact, even without the guidelines, anyone with the faintest sense of fair play would recognise that allowing a developer of any sort to select the people who are going to be allowed to talk to the developer on behalf of the community, is anathema. How has the department come to tolerate this corruption of process?” The group has already asked Palerang and Goulburn Mulwaree Councils to help with election of its CCC.
In June, EPYC, which wants to build the 100- turbine wind farm southeast of Tarago, called for community representation.
In response, the group nominated seven people including Mr Crawford, who it wanted on the committee, with a further eight as alternative delegates. The Reverend Tom Frame supervised the election.
Dr Crawford said to date there has been no response from the company or the Department of Planning.
At the most recent Goulburn Mulwaree meeting, planning director Chris Stewart was appointed as Council’s representative.
While companies like Union Fenosa have defended their ability to appoint a wide cross section of views to the committees, others like Mr Price-Jones have branded them “wind farm propaganda” machines.
Dr Crawford said while all the Tarago nominees oppose the wind farm, he would welcome a variety of voices on the committee.
But he’s adamant that the state government needs to regain control.
“The government wants to paper the State with wind farms but the process is nothing more than a fig leaf,” he said.
“…At the meeting in Sydney I said they have to understand our timetable. There’s an election next year and if our members feel political action is required, we won’t sit on our hands.
It’s about government policy and the way to deal with it is through the political process.”
Ms Goward told the Post she had asked her department for a report on CCCs.
“We made it clear that we expect wind farm companies to genuinely consult with communities and the history is that they haven’t,” she said.
“We need to be sure CCCs are genuine, that they genuinely represent the community and can give unfettered advice.”
The company had not responded to requests for comment by the time of going to press.