28 September 2023
People from the communities of Meadow Creek, the Strathbogie Ranges, Barnawartha and beyond had their say as part of a federal government review into community engagement processes for new renewable energy projects and associated infrastructure in a series of roundtable meetings held in Wangaratta on Wednesday.
The Community Engagement Review hosted three roundtables, meeting with local governments, businesses, landowners and community groups invited to participate by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water.
Announced in July, the Review is led by Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner Andrew Dyer and was established to advise on how best to engage with communities about future renewable energy and transmission projects.
Independent Federal Member for Indi Dr Helen Haines and Independent Senator for the ACT David Pocock worked closely with Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen to put the interests of regional Australia front and centre, ensuring the Terms of Reference would properly cover the opportunities and challenges being faced in Indi and across regional, rural and remote areas.
“I am proud to have made this review happen so the voices of local people can be heard and meaningful community engagement on the energy transition can occur,” Dr Haines said.
“I attended the community roundtable on Wednesday. The twenty people in the room, representing communities concerned about projects across Indi, were in agreement that to date, community consultation by project developers has been disappointing.”
The federal electorate of Indi is home to two Renewable Energy Zones, the Ovens Murray REZ and Central North REZ with several existing large-scale renewable energy projects including the Winton Solar Farm and the Glenrowan Solar Farm.
Proposals for future projects include the Meadow Creek Solar Farm and the Seymour Wind Farm located in the Strathbogie Ranges.
“Australia’s renewable energy transition is happening in the regions. Regional communities deserve to be consulted early and honestly, have their concerns listened to, and be provided opportunities to seize the long-term benefits of the renewables boom happening at their farm gate,” Dr Haines said.
“The review will consider issues I know are important to our regional communities, such as the impact of projects on agricultural land, emergency management and fire risks, and increases in landholder insurance premiums.”
Dr Haines ensured that benefit-sharing with local communities would be examined by the Review, including financial benefits, local employment opportunities and skills development.
“Local communities should get a fair share of the economic benefits of renewable energy projects. This means jobs, training, and the opportunity to take up a stake by co-investing in large-scale projects which are mostly foreign owned,” Dr Haines said.
Dr Haines has led the way in federal politics in the push for communities to benefit from the transition to renewable energy, including through the development of the Local Power Plan and the introduction of the of Australian Local Power Agency Bill in the last parliament.
“We value what we have in North East Victoria, and we have a bright future ahead of us if government and energy developers work with regional communities to get the transition right.”
Following the roundtables and consideration of public submissions, the Review will deliver its final report by the end of 2023.
More information about the review can be found here.