Council Meetings with DPE and EPYC

Having been advised that Palerang and Goulburn Mulwaree councils had each recently met with EPYC and a rep from the Department of Planning & Environment (DPE), we enquired about the nature of the meeting and whether any agreements or commitments were reached.  Emails from the two councils are below.

From Pete Harrison (Palerang Mayor)

The details of the meeting format are probably a bit semantic in nature. The meeting did involve the full Council, although it was not a Council meeting as such, it was just a presentation from EPYC as I previously noted. Ms Jones was present to provide any necessary details of the State Significant Development process and to answer any questions relating to same. She was invited to comment at relevant points during the question and answer session that followed the presentation. Some may considerl that a briefing.

At the July meeting of Council, Cr Hogarth-Boyd was nominated as the Palerang Council representative on the CCC.

The Carwoola proposal was before my time on Council, so I am not familiar with the details. I do remember the protests though, and the obvious fact that it didn't go ahead. It may have died before it even got to the DA stage, and so, technically, may never have been rejected as such.

 

From Bob Kirk (Goulburn Mulwaree Deputy Mayor)

I won't try to speak for all Councillors, although I expect they will agree with my following comments - but let me provide a response on behalf of Geoff & I.

We were given a briefing on the EPYC project last Thursday. This was the first "formal" presentation/information provided by the proponents, to Councillors. Karen Jones was in attendance. Let me assure you, there were no decisions or commitments made - the briefing was presented by their planning consultant, with members of EPYC's Project Team, and was essentially an outline of what they want to do, their timelines etc. 

We got the impression that they are not yet in a position to definitively elaborate on many of the questions that your very proactive community group have raised to date. The next step seems to be completion of the EIS, along with finalisation of the locations that they propose for each tower, - and as we understand it, the further Council/community consultation will then follow.

There were many questions from Councillors, - and we too, will need to wait for the further detail  to be provided, before most of those can be answered. The presentation was essentially a broad overview, which most/all of us were already aware of. 

There was concern expressed as to the Department being in attendance, and that their involvement gave the impression that the proposal was a fait accompli. We were assured by Karen Jones that her involvement was as a result of the significant community feedback/objections received to date, and they were there to simply observe this aspect of EPYC's consultation process.

As far as the guidelines go, it seems that there remains some question as to their "teeth", and that will remain the case until final guidelines become adopted by Cabinet. We do not have any indication when this might occur. In the meantime, and in response to a question, it was confirmed that the current guidelines provide for the proponent to select the CCC Chair, and community members.

Your same question was also asked - has a similar proposal been declined in NSW, - and the answer was, no. Concerns as to lack of answers available at the recent community consultation day, were raised, but partly answered by the earlier comment regarding the status of the EIS, and final siting of towers. Any community benefit ( beyond the construction phase) was also questioned, and that aspect has yet to be addressed as well.

The greater concerns and objections of the wider community were highlighted, and our desire to see further meaningful discussions, with care, consideration and compromise in mind, was emphasised.

We have no more information than you do at this stage. Chris Stewart, Council's Director of Planning, has been appointed as our representative on the CCC although Councillors will be fully informed/involved in future progress/developments.

Reply to Bob Kirk

Just one point re the guidelines and the statement "it was confirmed that the current guidelines provide for the proponent to select the CCC Chair, and community members".  For anyone who can read English, the guidelines clearly do not say that.  That may well be what is in the department's selected set of guidelines, which they will not share with us, but that means the guidelines are whatever the department says, not what is written.

As an illustration of what is actually required, I refer you to the Rye Park WF CCC.  The minutes of that CCC have been released through the public exhibition process.  Councillor Needham of Yass chaired the first meeting and, in the meeting, was asked how this came about.  The minutes (Minutes of Rye Park CCC, Meeting 1, 27 June 2012, item 7) record the following statement:

As this was the first CCC meeting, WT sought clarification on the nomination and appointment of DN as the Independent Chair of the CCC.  DN stated he was nominated by Yass Valley Council who separately wrote to DP&I regarding the nomination. The Guidelines state DP&I are responsible for the appointment of an Independent Chair to a wind farm CCC.

So Yass Council understood DP&I was supposed to nominate an independent chairperson, Yass Council then sent a nomination to the department and the department acted on that nomination.  But now the department wants to say that is not their role according to its current interpretation of the guidelines.

They have got themselves into this situation due to haphazard attention to their responsibilities and realise that if they now abide by what is written in the guidelines it will be a public admission of their failure to comply with the guidelines on many past wind farms, which may open up a whole can of worms in terms of the department's overall behaviour for wind farms that have been approved.