Last week a group of farmers who live in and next to the Crowlands Wind Farm project, the Highlanders, joined with the Australian Wind Alliance to host a public meeting in the Crowlands Hall.
Ably chaired by AWA member, Gwenda Allgood, the meeting heard from farmers, contractors, members of local community groups and football teams and the mayors of the three local shire councils.
And their message was directed squarely to their local MP, Dan Tehan - we want wind farms in our region and we want the Renewable Energy Target (RET) left alone to deliver them.
RET a big issue for Wannon
There is arguably no electorate in the country with more to lose from cuts to the RET. There are currently 8 permitted projects worth a whopping $2.75 billion in Wannon that can’t move forward until certainty around the RET is restored. A further batch of advanced projects totalling well over $1 billion would mean that if the RET were retained at its current 41 terawatt hour by 2020 target, Wannon alone could account for a quarter of the new $14.5 billion of investment the Clean Energy Council estimates will follow.
As a backbencher in a government showing every sign of pursuing ideological cuts to renewable energy, Dan Tehan is in a trickier position than most. Should the so-called “real 20%” RET cuts go ahead, at least 50% of those projects in his electorate would not proceed, which would amount to removing something in the order of $2 billion of investment from his electorate over the next five years. Hardly the stuff of electoral popularity.
On the local front, two wind farms - Crowlands and Ararat, worth $680 million together - have been delayed for years and the locals are wanting some answers as to whether their local MP is standing up for them or not.
A variety of community voices spoke to the meeting. Some were speaking publicly on the issue for the first time.
A civil contractor, Marty Dean, spoke quietly into the mic about his company’s work with wind farm construction and finished with “‘Jobs, jobs, jobs’ is all I really want to say”.
Cheryl Shea, a sheep farmer, spoke movingly about the importance of dependable income from hosting wind turbines that doesn’t fluctuate with the weather. It provides the sort of financial security that would allow her and her husband to pass on a viable farming business to their son.
Bernard Boatman, a neighbouring farmer to the Crowlands Wind Farm who wouldn’t be hosting turbines himself, talked about the changes in the seasons he’d noticed over the last 20 years and the diminishing rainfall in the area. Seeing a project go ahead in his district that would tackle the causes of climate change felt right to him.
Not so unaccustomed to public speaking were the mayors of the three local councils - Cr Robert Vance of Pyrenees Shire Council, Cr Paul Hooper of Ararat Rural City Council and Cr Kevin Erwin of Northern Grampians Shire Council.
Together they have lobbied strongly for their shires and they laid out for the meeting what was at stake for them - four proposed wind farms totalling $1.68 billion of capital investments and $100 million injection into the local economy during construction. $1.5 million would go every year to host landholders who are often located on marginal agricultural land and $1.3 million in income from rates. Jobs wise, the development of wind farms will involve 900 construction jobs and 60 direct and 74 indirect ongoing jobs during the operation of the wind farms over a period of 25 years. Then there’s $300,000 a year in community grants and investment and construction opportunities over 25 years delivering in excess of an additional $400 million.
The response from Mr Tehan was non-committal and disappointed many in the room. While there should now be ample proof for those that want to see it that the Renewable Energy is good for power prices, both for households and for businesses, Tehan will stay on the fence until the Review's report is handed down (see Media Release below).
This article argued the case for Mr Tehan to follow the lead of his neighbour in Corangamite, Sarah Henderson, and make a clear public statement in support of renewable energy for his country electorate.
There was some excellent media of the day from:
- WIN TV
- ABC radio
- Climate Spectator
- Ararat Advertiser
- ACE Radio's Country Today
- A letter to The Courier from AWA member Jane Marriott who attended on the day
MEDIA RELEASE: Tehan’s lack of support for RET a concern for South West Victoria
Federal MP for Wannon, Dan Tehan, disappointed a packed community meeting by refusing to rule out cuts to the Renewable Energy Target or RET, the federal scheme that supports construction of new wind farms in South West Victoria.
Over 100 people crowded into the Crowlands Hall, 30km north of Ararat, on Thursday to hear a range of local speakers call for wind farms to be built in the local area. The speakers included the mayors of three local councils, farmers, contracting companies and community group representatives.
“A strong Renewable Energy Target means a strong Pyrenees region and any cuts to the scheme will hit this region hard,” said Pyrenees Shire Council Mayor, Cr Robert Vance.
“Mr Tehan has listened well to us and we’re pleased he was on hand to hear so many other voices in the community who support wind farm development here," said Cr Vance.
Mr Tehan refused to state a clear position on whether or not the RET should be cut, saying that he was waiting to see the report from the RET Review panel.
“A wind farm here will bring so many benefits - not just economic ones but also for local conservation and fire track access,” said third-generation Glenlofty sheep farmer, Doug Boatman.
“There was a fair bit of disappointment in the room that Dan Tehan’s sitting on the fence and isn’t taking a stronger stand for us.
“He’s good on looking out for big business but I’d like to see him standing up a bit more strongly for farmers and the local community.
Eight wind projects worth $2.75 billion are currently stalled in Mr Tehan’s electorate of Wannon because of concerns the federal government will slash support for renewable energy as part of the review of the RET scheme currently taking place.
“A raft of economic modelling is showing that the RET is not increasing power prices. In fact, from 2020 power prices will be cheaper with a strong RET as renewable energy guards against spiralling gas prices,” said Australian Wind Alliance National Coordinator, Andrew Bray.
“Mr Tehan’s electorate of Wannon has more to lose from a bad outcome on the RET than any other member of parliament, so we’d like to see him out there leading the charge to keep the RET as strong as possible, concluded Mr Bray.