So­lar fast track

VCAT agrees to ex­pe­dite hear­ing into $43m project

Wangaratta Chronicle - - Front Page - BY SHANE DOUTHIE sd­outhie@ne­me­

AN in­de­pen­dent tri­bunal has agreed to fast track a civil hear­ing into an ob­jec­tion to a $43 mil­lion so­lar farm pro­posed to be de­vel­oped at North Wan­garatta.

The Vic­to­rian Civil and Ad­min­is­tra­tive Tri­bunal (VCAT) will hold its hear­ing on De­cem­ber 6 in­stead of Fe­bru­ary next year due to the project’s po­ten­tial sig­nif­i­cance to Vic­to­ria.

Coun­try-wide En­ergy (CWE) made a suc­cess­ful ap­pli­ca­tion to VCAT on Septem­ber 15 that the project be recog­nised as a ‘ma­jor case’ and the mat­ter brought by North Wan­garatta Fam­ily Mo­tel Inn should be brought for­ward.

Owner of the mo­tel Jayson Nichols had pre­vi­ously lodged an ob­jec­tion to VCAT against the es­tab­lish­ment of the large scale so­lar farm that would stretch 15 hectares ad­ja­cent to the busi­ness.

Mr Nichols cited his con­cerns about ex­ces­sive noise gen­er­ated by the 70,000 so­lar pan­els, a neg­a­tive im­pact to tourism, and a fire haz­ard.

The 20-megawatt so­lar farm is ex­pected to gen­er­ate enough en­ergy to power the equiv­a­lent of 5000 homes.

CWE di­rec­tor Ge­off Drucker said his com­pany was pleased with the re­sult of the prac­tice hear­ing ear­lier this month.

“It would have been a long wait un­til Fe­bru­ary,” he told the Wan­garatta Chron­i­cle.

“It was also pleas­ing that the project has been ac­knowl­edged as a ‘ma­jor case’ be­cause of its sig­nif­i­cance to Vic­to­ria.”

Mr Drucker had said ear­lier that the project’s de­lay un­til Fe­bru­ary 2018 would have cost the com­pany in the re­gion of $15 mil­lion.

“The project is sig­nif­i­cant be­cause Wan­garatta suf­fers from ‘en­ergy in­se­cu­rity’ par­tic­u­larly in sum­mer when busi­nesses are asked to cur­tail their de­mand,” he said.

“It makes it very hard to keep busi­nesses here or at­tract new busi­nesses.”

Mr Nichols said he would fight the case all the way rather than let the fam­ily busi­ness die a slow death once the so­lar farm was built.

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