‘Natural Justice’ Denied: Lawyer Critical of Wind Farm Approvals

Brendan Gullifer
The Courier, December 23 2010

Objectors to two local wind farm projects passed by the Brumby Government at the eleventh hour were denied natural justice, according to a Melbourne lawyer.

Andrew Cox said noise assessment at Moorabool and Yaloak South was not public, not transparent and subverted the requirements of public hearings.

Reviewing the Planning Panel decision at Moorabool and the advisory committee outcome at Yaloak South, Mr Cox said public confidence in the planning process had been eroded.

“In each case a permit was granted subject to the developer having to redo noise assessments prior to development,” Mr Cox said.

“Such ‘second go’ assessments, however, don’t have to be shown to objectors and are not subject to further assessment by a panel.

“Such arrangements are not public, are not transparent and operate to subvert the requirements of public hearings and natural justice imposed by Parliament.”

But new Planning Minister Matthew Guy said the permits would stand.

“The Baillieu Government cannot revisit permits that have already been issued but asks wind energy developers to be conscious of the new Government’s expectations when it comes to wind turbine placement,” Mr Guy said.

Mr Cox, who acted for objectors to the Mortlake and Stockyard Hill wind farms, said noise assessments at both Moorabool and Yaloak South were non-compliant and were ordered to be redone as part of the permit approval process. “In each case the additional independent acoustic consultant is to be chosen and paid for by the developer,” Mr Cox said.

“Objectors, however, do not regard reliance on two consultants chosen and paid for by the developer as a significant safeguard, particularly when they and their own experts are unable to see further assessments.”

Mr Cox is now on the advisory committee of the Waubra Foundation, a body setup earlier this year to encourage independent health assessments of people living in close proximity to wind turbines.

The Moorabool wind farm comprising 107 turbines and the 14-turbine Yaloak South wind farm were both given the green light by the Brumby Government just before it went into caretaker mode.

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