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Energy – Wind Farm Planning

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Thursday, 26 November 2020

Tags: Wind Farms, Renewable Energy

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, the approvals are changing quickly in Tasmania so some of the figures I read might be slightly out of date. I would be happy for you to correct my figures if they are. I understand there are already some 228 wind turbines in Tasmania generating power. If what is proposed currently goes ahead, the figure would be 652 turbines with a maximum generating capacity of some 2670 megawatts.

Minister, there are, as you know, quite a range of concerns that people in the community have with the placement of windfarms. You alluded to communities in the north and north-west who also have concerns about the transmission lines to carry the power from turbines to markets and users. In the north-west we have Robbins Island which has rural dairy farming communities up there quite concerned about the impact, and there are the eagles and the sea eagles. We have fly fishers and people around the St Patricks Plain Epuron windfarm proposals up in arms. Victoria Onslow, a spokeswoman for that community, said, 'We are prepared to fight to the bitter end to stop this'. The lakes are one of the world's premier fly-fishing destinations and they hosted the world championships and she says, 'It's a huge assault on our history, culture and way of life'.

There is a range of views in the communities. Surely the way to respond appropriately as the Minister for Energy is to press pause on any new development and undergo an assessment of appropriate renewable energy zones in Tasmania. That will take account of the environmental impacts, the birds, the communities, the forest communities and all the other factors that need to be considered for appropriate placement of windfarms.

Mr BARNETT - That sounds very consistent with the views, at least to some degree, of the Bob Brown Foundation who are ardent opponents of Marinus Link.

Dr WOODRUFF - It is actually consistent with the views of anybody who is interested in well-planned renewable energy, which is what the Greens are interested in.

CHAIR - Order, Dr Woodruff.

Dr WOODRUFF - He was inciting me, Chair, going off on a political tangent immediately. I tried to keep it a very neutral question but the minister can't help himself.

CHAIR - I am sure the minister will try not to incite you. I ask that you let the minister respond and then you will be able to ask a follow-up question.

Dr WOODRUFF - It is a straight question and it should get a straight answer.

Mr BARNETT - It was a very lengthy question with many parts. Let us just deal with parts of that question one by one. The background to that appears to be - and I am just expressing my point of view - consistent with the Bob Brown Foundation. I note on the record, whether you agree or not, it is up to you whether you express a view on that, that the Bob Brown Foundation is ardently opposed to Marinus Link and have expressed strong views in that regard.

Dr WOODRUFF - Chair, standing order 45, relevance. This is completely unrelated to the question I asked. Are you going to prepare renewable energy zones for Tasmania?

Mr BARNETT - There were many questions in that very lengthy speech. Community consultation is really important. It is something I have been strong on on behalf of the Government to encourage that wherever possible. I have had direct contact with all the wind energy and other renewable energy proponents to say this is important and is part of the Government's plan going forward. We support and encourage community engagement wherever possible.

I have had meetings and encouraged the involvement of the National Wind Farm Commissioner, Andrew Dyer, and he has been very much appreciated, not just by the Government but by other members of the community, when he has been able to visit. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted on his visits but I know he will be back. I have also had ongoing contact with the Clean Energy Council and had very good support and encouragement from them for our plans here in Tasmania, not to mention the World Wildlife Fund and the ongoing consultation with them and their strong support for our plans for a renewable energy target and renewable energy in Tasmania, which I've put on the record.

The Clean Energy Council has codes of practice and guidelines that they recommend and of course that is encouraged. We encourage windfarm and other renewable energy proponents to act in accordance with best practice with respect to those guidelines and the recommendations made by the Clean Energy Council and we support and appreciate that.

You also made reference in your question to special renewable energy zones which is appreciated, so thank you for the question. It's really important. In Tasmania we are blessed with three renewable energy zones - the north-west down to the west coast, the north-east, and the central highlands through to the centre. They are really important zones.

Dr WOODRUFF - What are they based on and where are they drawn up?

CHAIR - The minister is responding to your first question.

Dr WOODRUFF - Okay. I'm interested to know -

Mr BARNETT - There's a fair bit of work going on in this regard and I'm happy to refer to the Director of Energy Policy, but the renewable energy framework that is relevant to the renewable energy zones is important so that work is going on as we speak in terms of how that operates and the terms and conditions around what applies and doesn't apply in those renewable energy zones. I will pass to the Director of Energy Policy to add to that because part of that framework has to be finalised. There is a draft and the approach to that framework is important and I know the department has been doing a lot of good work in that regard.

Mr TERRY - Yes, that's correct. The renewable energy coordination framework that we've had under development will go a long way to dealing with some of the issues that you've mentioned. This is quite a broad, sweeping framework that covers quite a few areas. First of all, it's how we support the achievement of the renewable energy target. It looks at mapping priority areas for renewable energy growth. It looks at dealing with land use conflict issues. It will have guidance around best-practice community engagement. It will look at the design of community benefits schemes.

I've got to say this is not unique to Tasmania. Every jurisdiction that is building out their renewable energy is addressing those kinds of issues, both governments and industry as well. We will look at streamlining statutory and regulatory processes and we will also look at mechanisms and how we can better organise ourselves within government to coordinate some of these renewable energy development projects as well. We've had some targeted consultation on that but we are getting very close to releasing that to broader consultation.

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, does your Government like picking fights with fly fishers? You've got a massive fight on your hands with the privatisation of Lake Malbena now the whole island has been privatised. With St Patricks Plains and Epuron, Penstock Lagoon would be one of the areas affected and, as I said before, it's the site for the premier world fly fishing championships. I know you know this quite well. I understand you've been to that and understand the benefits of that involvement in Tasmania.

Trout Unlimited, which is an organisation in America, pledged 300 000 signatures to support locals in opposing that windfarm. Isn't this what happens when you have secret arrangements for windfarm development plans without consulting communities or looking at the impacts on sea eagles and other migratory birds? Don't you get this sort of fight on your hands? Will you learn and make sure that what is being discussed is going to be consulted properly with the community and they get to give feedback, or is this just another regulatory framework behind closed doors?

Mr BARNETT - There is concern in parts of the community. You mentioned St Patricks Plains, you mentioned Lake Malbena. With respect to the latter, it is important that there is due process and federal, state and local government approval processes are abided by. I acknowledge the concerns that you have expressed. That is why I have been very strong on the importance of consultation, strong on encouraging community engagement.

I have written to the relevant proponents, in this case Epuron. I have had contact with Epuron directly to encourage further consultation, directly from me, through my office and through the department. They have contact with a range of wind energy proponents. It is important to note the Government's policy of supporting community engagement and consultation.

Dr WOODRUFF - So would you think about shifting that if it is not appropriate for the community?

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, the minister is responding.

Mr BARNETT - I support community engagement. The National Wind Farm Commissioner, Andrew Dyer, has been to the Central Highlands and has met with relevant members of the community and the council. I have met with the commissioner and encouraged that consultation to take place. I expect that further consultation will take place.

Dr WOODRUFF - To what end? Is this just a tick-a-box exercise, or are you going to listen to what the community has to say and change your mind and do something different?

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, it is Mr Ellis's call.

Mr BARNETT - I have made it clear how important the consultation process is, how there needs to be community engagement and the importance of a planning and approval process at the three levels of government: federal, state and local. All those levels of government are important. People need to have their say. That is an important part of the process. That is why we support that. I have referred to those renewable energy zones. We have had feedback from the director of energy policy about the renewable energy coordination framework. We will have more to say about that once it is released. That will be made available for comment and feedback in due course.