NORTHERN Grampians Shire Council has joined forces with neighbouring municipalities, to alert Prime Minister Tony Abbott to the economic importance of wind farms to regional communities.
Council has endorsed the action of its mayor, Cr Kevin Erwin, in joining with the mayors of the Ararat Rural City Council and Pyrenees Shire Council in writing to Mr Abbott, advising the Prime Minister of the importance of wind farms to the social and economic health and sustainability of communities.
The letter draws to the attention of Mr Abbott, the impact that the winding back of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) Scheme would have on the economies of the Northern Grampians Shire and surrounding communities.
Cr Murray Emerson said the outcome could have the potential to impact strongly on communities within the three municipalities.
He said proposed wind farm developments across the three local government areas of Northern Grampians, Pyrenees and Ararat were at risk of not proceeding if the Renewable Energy Target (RET) Scheme is wound back.
He said the wind farms at Crowlands, Ararat, Bulgana and Stockyard Hill, with a combined total of 374 Turbines, are potentially a $1.68 billion investment in this region, that will provide $1.3 million dollars per annum in rates to our councils, $300,000 per annum to community groups, create 60 direct and 74 indirect ongoing jobs.
"The wind farms are generally welcomed by our communities and will provide drought-proof income of $1.5 million per annum to host landholders who are largely located on marginal agricultural land," Cr Emerson said.
"So we can see from these figures, wind farm developments are very important for our shire."
The significance of the wind farm development to all three shires was conveyed to government officials during the recent National General Assembly of Local Government in Canberra.
The assembly was attended by both Cr Erwin and the shire's chief executive officer, Justine Linley.
Both Cr Erwin and Mrs Linley were given opportunities to participate in a number of deputations to senior Government Ministers, Advisors and departments over the four days of the Assembly.
Adding weight to the deputations was the fact that the event was attended by more than 800 mayors, councillors and senior officers from across Australia. The assembly provided Northern Grampians Shire Council with the opportunity to contribute to the development of national local government policy.
Other matters of concern raised at the assembly included
Increased government funding to address the broader infrastructure renewal gap to enable rural communities to generate jobs and encourage business development and expansion.
The impact of the freeze on CPI increases for the Financial Assistance Grants to local government.
Telecommunications infrastructure and the provision of the basic foundations for high speed broadband in small rural councils as organisations.
Several motions were passed by the General Assembly calling for the removal of the freeze on Financial Assistance Grants indexation. In addition, motions were also passed calling on the Australian Government to increase funding for core infrastructure provision including roads, bridges and telecommunications.
Cr Erwin said some 12 deputations and meetings were conducted over the three days in Canberra, with representatives from the mayors and CEOs of the region’s councils attending as many as possible to put the regional case.
He said Northern Grampians joined the mayors and CEOs of Ballarat, Ararat, Pyrenees, Horsham, Hindmarsh, Yarriambiack and West Wimmera councils in advocating for change or increased funding in a range of areas.
Cr Wayne Rice said he welcomed the fact that councils were working together in a strong show of unity to get the message across.
“This regional approach is certainly the way of the future,” he said.
“We are working together with the Pyrenees and Ararat councils to see that we get this wind farm development up and running. It’s a way of ensuring we get the best outcome for every dollar spent by our ratepayers,” he said.