THE Queensland Government last week announced that it will now assess the Mount Emerald Wind Farm proposal on the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland, following a request from Mareeba Shire Council.
Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Jeff Seeney said that after giving notice of his intention to call in the development earlier this year, he has decided to call in the proposed $380 million development as it involves matters of state interest.
The proposal for the Mount Emerald Wind Farm at Arriga includes up to 75 turbines to potentially generate 225 megawatts of energy – enough to power up to 75,000 homes each year. It is estimated 158 local jobs could be created over the potential development's two-year construction phase.
"Following Mareeba Shire Council's request, I invited affected parties to have their say on the development from 10 April to 14 May this year and I received a number of representations," Mr Seeney said, adding that he arrived at his decision to call in the development application after consideration of all matters raised.
A total of 24 representations were received during the representation period, with three supporting the wind farm development and 12 opposing it (the remaining 9 did not specify). Ten of the representations supported the call in (the remaining 14 did not specify) and 9 representations advised that the development application involved state interests (the remaining 15 did not specify).
"Wind farm developments attract keen public interest and it is important that development proposals balance community expectation with potential economic and environmental benefits," Mr Seeney said.
According to the call in notice, Mr Seeney called in the development application for the following reasons:
- The development application involves economic and environmental interests to the state;
- Mareeba Shire Council made it clear in their correspondence that they do not have the fiscal capacity or technical expertise to assess and determine the development application; and
- The Chief Executive of the Sustainable Planning Act 2009 will become the assessment manager for wind farm development applications in the future, with a draft Wind Farm State Code expected to commence in mid-2014.
"We are delivering on our promise to make better planning decisions for Queensland by developing a state code to assess wind farm proposals. The Queensland Government understands councils, which are currently the assessment managers for wind farms, do not have the provisions in their planning schemes specific to wind farms," Mr Seeney said.
"The Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning will use the information gained in the independent assessment and consider the application against the relevant planning instruments before making a recommendation on whether or not the proposed development should proceed."
The Minister's final decision on the development application is expected to be made later this year. More information about the Ministerial call in is available from the Department of State Development, Infrastructure and Planning website at <http://www.dsdip.qld.gov.au/development-applications/ministerial-call-in.html>.