BEAM Mitchell Environment Group has welcomed the long-awaited decision from VCAT that approves the planning application for the Cherry Tree Range wind farm. BEAM President Richard Telford says that Seymour can now look forward to the benefits that this project will bring. “Along with producing enough clean energy to power around 26,000 homes, there will be a significant stimulus to the local economy in the form of investment and jobs.”
Local business support for the project is also strong. Rocky Passes vineyard is in the immediate locality of the proposed wind farm and applauds the VCAT decision to approve the Infigen project. “It is based on science and evidence in health, environment, aesthetic and heritage issues” say owners Candi Westney and Victor Oles. “We would be delighted to be part of a community that is proactive in reducing our reliance on coal-based power and welcome the Cherry Tree Range wind farm to our neighbourhood”.
Greg Byers of Cartridge World sees the proposal as an important part of the mix of renewable energy and acknowledges the considerable economic benefits the project can deliver for the Seymour region. BEAM Vice-President Peter Lockyer agrees “The Infigen project is an important part of the mix of renewables, along with rooftop solar, that can benefit the triple bottom line for our region. There are social and environmental benefits to be achieved by this.”
Friends of the Earth have supplied estimates that the project should provide around $250,000 of steady income for wind farmers, a ‘drought-proof’ income that can be expected to be spent in the local area. A predicted $1.2 million worth of flow-on benefit should also eventuate, and the locals can expect to gain from a community fund of up to $80,000 each year. “The community fund is particularly significant” says BEAM member Sarah Durrant, “as the locals could be in a position to choose just how the funds might best be used.”
A campaign by opponents of the wind farm, including the Waubra Foundation and the Landscape Guardians, could have threatened the project and denied Seymour the benefits that it will bring. Some argued about the possibility of health impacts, others about visual impact, but the VCAT decision has confirmed that the wind farm is to be sited appropriately and that existing evidence shows no direct health implications.
While Mitchell Shire councillors initially rejected the idea of a wind farm at the chosen site, BEAM hopes that they’ll now recognise the value of the Cherry Tree Range project, not just in the terms of generating green power and reducing emissions, but as a much needed and very significant investment into the local economy. The Shire will also benefit from a rates windfall from the project, probably around $76,000 annually.
BEAM recognises that there may be some in the community who will be disappointed by the VCAT planning decision. “We hope that all parties might agree that we should now heal some divisions and work towards achieving the best outcome possible,” says Richard Telford.