YARRIAMBIACK Shire Council has called on the Federal Government to take renewable energy seriously, as it risks losing a $650-million wind farm project.
Company RES proposed the 110-turbine project at Murra Warra but its future is uncertain after a Federal Government-commissioned review recommended abolishing the Renewable Energy Target.
Council will write to Member for Mallee Andrew Broad and all Victorian federal senators to emphasise the importance of the renewable energy industry and to ask them to support the retention target in its current form.
Council infrastructure and planning director James Magee said the Murra Warra wind farm would be adjacent to the Minyip-Dimboola Road and could create 235 direct jobs and 375 indirect jobs during construction over two years.
The project’s 25-year lifespan would sustain 15 permanent jobs and 45 indirect positions.
Cr Ray Kingston said the project was important for the shire and could not be dismissed.
“We’ve got a company looking at spending $650 million just down the road,’’ he said.
“The only loser is Joe Hockey. He’s off staying in his caravan at the Minyip wetlands then heads along the Minyip-Dimboola Road to Dimboola and finds the view not to his taste. Sorry Joe, you’re just going to learn to take it.''Cr Ray Kingston
He said changes to the energy target would affect RES and residents who had planned for the farm.
“If this is changed they’re about to have the rug pulled out from under them,’’ he said.
Yarriambiack and Horsham councillors, Wimmera Development Association and RES representatives and residents met with Mr Broad last week.
Mr Broad expressed doubts about the viability of wind farms in the Wimmera earlier this month.
Councillors called for Mr Broad to support the project and stand for Mallee, not the party line.
Cr Kingston said the matter was larger than the Murra Warra project.
“While it’s easy to focus on this one wind farm, this is also about the renewable energy sector as a whole,’’ he said.
He listed solar, geothermal and biomass as potential energy options for the shire in the future.
“These are all renewable energies,’’ he said.
“I think the government should be getting the message that these are desirable outcomes.’’
Cr Kingston referred to Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey’s comments that wind farms were utterly offensive and a blight on the landscape.
“As far as I’m concerned, the only loser is Joe Hockey,’’ he said.
“He’s off staying in his caravan at the Minyip wetlands then heads along the Minyip-Dimboola Road to Dimboola and finds the view not to his taste.
“Sorry Joe, you’re just going to learn to take it because it’s more important than your aesthetic pleasure.’’
Cr Kingston said the meeting with Mr Broad allowed people to express their concerns about changes to the energy target.
“That meeting only came about from local lobbying. Prior to that, many residents had been informed by his office he was too busy,’’ he said.
“Thus far the rhetoric from our local member has been, at best, negative.’’
Cr Terry Grange said he was disappointed Mr Broad was not holding up to his promise that the Mallee would come first and parliament second.
“When we talk to farmers, they’re having trouble contacting our local member,’’ he said.
Cr Grange said the wind farm was about ‘drought-proofing’ farmers.
“This is one industry that can grow in this region,’’ he said.
“This is an important project and we cannot and will not let it fall over.
“There needs to be a rather strong letter written to Mr Broad and he should be told to support the Mallee.’’
“This is one industry that can grow in this region. This is an important project and we cannot and will not let it fall over.''Cr Terry Grange
Chief executive Ray Campling said Yarriambiack had previously been listed as an unviable and unsustainable council.
He said the wind farm project would ensure life for the community.
He called on Mr Broad to support the project.
“It’s a no-brainer. I concur with Cr Grange – he’s here to represent the Mallee, not to toe the party line,’’ he said.
Mr Campling said the project was the biggest in the region since the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline.
He described himself as frustrated and disillusioned with the lack of support.
“We might lose a couple of battles but in the end we’ll win the war,’’ he said.
“We aren’t unstable or unviable. We’re a great community. I congratulate council with this.’’
Mayor Andrew McLean said council was not trying to start a war.
He said he appreciated Mr Broad making time for council and residents.
He said the wind farm remained uncertain because of the energy target concerns.
“We won’t be saying it’s up and going, but we’ll be encouraging people to fight the fight,’’ he said.
Cr Kingston acknowledged Mr Broad for meeting with council.
“I do not criticise our federal member lightly,’’ he said.
“I don’t want to start a war either – I just want this to go ahead.’’