Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Cherry Tree wind farm to go to tribunal

VCAT decides mediation unlikely to succeed for $100m proposal.

CHALPAT SONTI November 16, 2012 10:09am

The fate of a controversial $100million wind farm on the outskirts of Seymour will be decided after a marathon Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal hearing early next year.

A preliminary hearing at VCAT last week was supposed to lead to mediation between Infigen Energy, which wants to build the Cherry Tree wind farm, on one side and the Mitchell Shire Council and local residents on the other.

But VCAT deputy president Helen Gibson decided mediation was likely to be a waste of time.

‘‘In my view I don’t think there’s a great deal to be served by mediation,’’ she said.

Instead she set aside 12 days for the hearing, which is scheduled to start in late January and be heard before two VCAT members who will also inspect the site at some stage.

Sutton Waugh of the Trawool Valley Whiteheads Creek Landscape Guardians, an umbrella group representing many residents, said it would need about five days to present its case against the project. It would call between 25 and 30 ‘‘lay witnesses’’ who would outline how the project would affect the environment, health and visual and planning impacts, three acoustic experts and three or four health experts.

Maria Marshall, representing Mitchell Shire Council said its case would take between half a day to one day to present. It had yet to decide whether or not it would call any expert witnesses.

Robert Hutchinson represented the Department of Sustainability and Environment. He said there were biodiversity issues and impacts on Crown land and birds that needed to be addressed, though some matters were being worked through with Infigen.

Tim Power, representing Infigen, said its case would be presented in two to three days.

It would call expert witnesses in the fields of ecology, noise, landscape and visual effects, and possibly health and planning.

Infigen would submit a varied application and expert reports — required after a landowner pulled out of negotiations — as soon as possible.

Three turbines would be removed and none would be within 2km of the landowner’s home. The 2km buffer zone, brought in by the Victorian Government last year, can see landowners within it veto any wind farm project.

Another objector, Russell Varcoe, sought to have the status of properties within the 2km buffer zone that have building permits already issued clarified earlier than January, as this could rule the project out before the need for a hearing.

However, Ms Gibson said the matter could be addressed during the January hearing.

Several other residents indicated they would speak at the hearing, with at least two bringing in an expert witness.

See Letters, Pages 2 and 3.

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