When community engagement isn't up to scratch

The key to the long term future of wind in regional Australia is strong community engagement. For companies planning a wind farm, this means getting out into the community early, being open and transparent, promoting the project through local media, meeting with the local community groups, councils and anyone who has a stake in the future of the area where you want to build the wind farm. Over the years, we've seen industry improve markedly in the way it engages with the community but from time to time the standard is not upheld by all developers.

Wind farm developer, EYPC's decision to withdraw its plans for the Jupiter Wind Farm near Tarago in the NSW Southern Tablelands is an admission that they've failed to bring the local community along with them. While its the right decision in the circumstances, it's a disappointing outcome for local supporters of the project, including some of our members, who feel let down that the company was not able to unite the community behind their proposal. Wind farms have so much to offer local communities from jobs and economic benefits but in this case, these benefits were not enough to offset the ill-will brought about by the company's poor community engagement.

AWA objected to the development application as it was clear to us that engagement had not been comprehensive and transparent. Subsequently the Department of Planning and Environment rejected the Application. This is the first such objection we have made and hopefully it will be the last.

It was notable that the developer did make efforts to re-imagine the project in response to community feedback by removing the project's entire southern section and some turbines from the northern section, as well as offering neighbour agreements. These efforts, however, were not enough to regain the trust that was lost in the community by the earlier lack of transparency.

Going forward, we see no reason why the area couldn't one day host a wind farm in some shape or form. But it will require a concerted effort by a different developer who can argue the case convincingly for why this community would want to host a wind farm in their area.

Quaenbeyan's District Bulletin offers an interesting analysis of the project's demise.


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