In August, BEAM provided a submission to the Mitchell Shire Council in relation to the proposed Cherry Tree Hill wind farm development. This submission was developed following site visits, tours of the proposed route (for transporting the turbines to the site), and reviewing all the available documentation. Overall, our submission supported the development, but outlined a range of concerns in relation to local flora and fauna, which we believed could be addressed within the planning permit framework.
Mitchell Shire Council failed to respond to the planning permit application within the required timeframe, so the company proposing the development took the matter to VCAT. Prior to VCAT considering the matter, the Council was required to state its position, and so the Council called a special meeting for Thursday October 25.
BEAM was notified of the meeting and offered the opportunity to provide a 3 minute verbal submission. Our verbal submission outlined our support for the development of renewable energy, as part of a local response to climate change and peak oil. We believe the proposed wind farm was in keeping with the values and goals outlined in the Mitchell Shire Council’s 2020 Plan. Mitchell Shire Council planning staff also recommended that the permit be granted, as did the Mitchell Shire Council Environment Advisory Committee.
Not to be confused with BEAM’s own Peter Mitchell, founding chairman of the Waubra Foundation, (the other, non-local) Peter Mitchell, spoke against the proposal along with others involved in anti-wind farm lobby groups. Following a large number of speakers, Council unanimously voted against the proposal. The minutes of the meeting, which includes the documentation provided to councillors by planning department staff can be
viewed at http://www.mitchellshire.vic.gov.au/your_council/meetings.aspx.
The BEAM committee has now prepared a formal response to this decision. Although Mitchell Shire Council has acknowledged the real need to transition to renewable energy sources in response to declining resource availability and climate change, we believe a key opportunity to provide leadership and put strategy into practice was missed. Credible evidence and advice was ignored while myths and community divisions were reinforced.
We believe Council could have minimised division through strong supportive leadership which respected people’s concerns while promoting facts and enhancing knowledge about renewable energy. We suggest that there is now a role for Council to organize a professionally facilitated meeting, bringing people from both sides of the debate together, and focusing on shared goals and positive, local solutions to climate change which will bring the community together rather than divide it.
BEAM, in collaboration with Friends of the Earth have produced a flyer to help set the record straight about the impact of the proposed wind farm. Click here to download.