Illustration: Matt Golding.
Hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars worth of investment have been stymied in key electorates across Victoria because of state government wind farm restrictions, according to new research.
In a week when job losses dominated the political landscape, an analysis of wind farm proposals suggests some of the most volatile seats heading into this year's election have missed out on construction jobs and the possibility of ongoing economic benefits because of rules preventing projects in certain areas.
While Premier Denis Napthine has previously declared his personal love for wind farms - his south-west electorate has the largest wind energy project in the southern hemisphere - Coalition legislation has created a series of ''no go'' zones around many Victorian towns, established a right of veto for people living within two kilometres of proposed turbines and made it difficult to extend or alter approved projects.
According to research by Friends of the Earth - based on modelling by Sinclair Knight Merz (SKM) for the Clean Energy Council - this has resulted in 11 proposed wind farms being knocked back in recent years, costing a total of more than 400 jobs in the electorates of Polwarth, Gippsland South, and South Barwon (held by the government), Macedon, Bendigo West, Ripon, Williamstown and Buninyong (held by Labor).
The analysis, to be released this week, also shows:
■ Overall, wind farm restrictions have scrapped or stalled projects worth up to $864 million across the state and thwarted about $10.5 million in economic benefits that could have gone to regional communities.
■ Macedon is among the biggest losers, with three wind farms thwarted, costing a total of 229 new jobs and more than $5 million of ongoing economic benefits.
■ A seven-turbine wind farm that could have powered more than 7000 homes was rejected in Deputy Premier Peter Ryan's Gippsland South electorate, while two were ditched in Transport Minister Terry Mulder's Polwarth electorate.
The analysis was based on SKM's estimates that suggest a typical 50 megawatt wind farm would create 48 direct jobs, five ongoing jobs in operation and maintenance, $250,000 for turbine hosts and $1.2million in flow-on benefits.
But Planning Minister Matthew Guy rejected the report, saying its claims were ''ludicrous''. He declined to provide specific examples, but told The Sunday Age: ''This so-called report is full of errors and denies the fact that some of these projects had valid permits but chose not to build, and others were refused permits while Labor was in government.''
As November's poll looms, environment groups have urged the government to soften wind farm laws.
''Premier Napthine has benefited more from wind energy than any other state MP. By showing leadership and scrapping the anti-wind laws, he can unleash investment and create jobs throughout Victoria,'' said Friends of the Earth spokesman Leigh Ewbank.
The government says it has no plans to change the law, insisting the current rules strike the right balance. But Labor's planning spokesman, Brian Tee, said the opposition was looking at softening the system.
''While regional Victoria is suffering from a jobs crisis, the state and federal Liberal governments are conspiring to make it worse by slamming the door on renewable energy investments like wind farms,'' he said.