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Solar farm support urged

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February 12, 2018

State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed believes the city’s council could use some Victorian Government help in assessing $300million worth of solar farm applications, viewed by some councillors as problematic to determine.

State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed believes the city’s council could use some Victorian Government help in assessing $300million worth of solar farm applications, viewed by some councillors as problematic to determine.

While Ms Sheed acknowledged the Moira Shire had no issue dealing with its own solar farm applications worth hundreds of millions, she identified a distinction between the land the solar farms were proposed for in the Moira Shire compared to Greater Shepparton.

‘‘Where a number of the applications, I understand, are to build on productive agricultural farming properties,’’ she said.

Ms Sheed said she had contacted Victoria’s planning minister outlining the concerns of constituents and objectors.

She said in circumstances where there was ‘‘a strong government policy to pursue renewable energy’’ she suggested help could be offered to ensure decisions made were sustainable in the future.

She suggested an expert panel to hear from all parties and assist in forming policy and guidelines.

Solar farm applications totalling more than $300million will be addressed at a Shepparton council meeting this month.

Two councillors believe the proposals are problematic for the council to determine and fear a situation where whatever the resolution, the matters may end up at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

Victoria’s planning minister has yet to decide whether he will determine the projects, estimated to produce a total 200MW of power for the region.

The council had in November voted for its chief executive to request the minister to decide on the solar farm planning applications in Greater Shepparton and establish a process providing an opportunity for affected stakeholders to be heard.

While Ms Sheed understood Victoria’s Planning Department’s general view might be for councils to determine such applications, she said the importance for the right framework around solar farm projects was there.

‘‘We really welcome this sort of investment,’’ she said.

‘‘We know we’ve got significant policy challenges ahead, and renewable energy is part of the solution.

‘‘We’ve got sunshine and the capacity to host solar farms in that region and we would want to.’’

The council declined to comment on the matter last week and did not shed light on what would specifically be considered at this month’s meeting.

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