A NSW government recommendation for a 63-turbine wind farm to proceed at Collector will be met with strong opposition at a community meeting, according to opponents of the project who say they’ve been “shafted” by the planning process.
The NSW Department of Planning released their final report on the $350 million project to the north of the ACT at the end of September, which recommended the project be approved. It has now been sent to the NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) for final determination.
“The Department considers that the Project is justified and in the public interest and should be approved subject to the recommended conditions of approval and the proponent’s statement of commitments,” the report said.
But local resident Tony Hodgson, who is president of anti-wind farm group Friends of Collector, said his lawyers were reviewing the detailed report, which he believed was full of mistakes.
Despite the recommendation, he said strong opposition remained in the community, which would be enthusiastically voiced at a community meeting with the PAC at the end of October.
“We spent a lot of time and a lot of energy putting in our submission, and nobody from the department ever talked to us,” Mr Hodgson said.
“We feel very, very hard done by. We think it’s an outrage, and the whole thing’s been a complete waste of our time.”
Individuals from the community will get five minutes each to address the PAC at the meeting, while organisations will get 15 minutes – but Mr Hodgson said it wasn’t enough time to go through all their objections.
“We’re not getting a fair go. We’ve been denied natural justice, and to put it politely, we’ve been shafted,” he said.
“We’re not satisfied with the 15 minutes, we’ve got some major concerns about the Department of Planning’s approval and we want longer.”
Mr Hodgson pointed towards a review of all aspects of wind farm projects promised by the new federal government, which he said would likely address the noise and health concerns of the community.
“What we’re saying is put a stop on all these things until we do the study,” he said. While he called for a “balanced, sensible” discussion at the community meeting, he also said there was “a lot of anger down in the community”.
RATCH-Australia, the company proposing to build the wind farm, said it was confident its proposal met all the environmental and social requirements for approval. Project manager Anthony Yeates welcomed the PAC’s pending work with the community and said he hoped for a determination within months.
“Anyone who’s interested should get in touch with the PAC,” project manager Anthony Yeates said. “Hopefully there will be a decision made through the remainder of this year.”
Should approval be granted by the end of the year, Mr Yeates said a two-year design and construction process would likely begin by the end of 2014, with the project possibly nearing completion by the end of 2016.
The community meeting with PAC commissioners Garry West, Richard Thorp and Brian Gilligan will be held at 4pm on Tuesday, October 29 at the Collector Memorial Hall. Parties wishing to comment at the meeting must register by October 24 by calling 02 9383 2112. More information is available via the PAC website.