MP disappointed with solar farm approvals

By Ashlea Witoslawski

Victorian Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed has shared her disappointment of the three recent solar farm approvals for Lemnos, Tatura East and Tallygaroopna.

The approved permits for the three planned solar farms were announced on Friday by Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne, despite new guidelines not yet being in place. 

Ms Sheed said many in the community were ‘‘devastated’’ by the decision.

‘‘Few would argue against the merits of new solar farms, but these farms are in the wrong place, located as all three are, on the irrigation backbone and prime agricultural land,’’ she said.

‘‘I am very disappointed by this announcement.’’

Ms Sheed said the approvals contradicted draft guidelines released last month that specify irrigation and agricultural suitability must be considered in the endorsement of new solar farms.

‘‘It’s a big state — we have a lot of land far more suitable to the establishment of these kind of projects, land that has not been improved in terms of irrigation infrastructure at considerable expense and land that is not highly suitable for agriculture,’’ she said. 

According to a statement released by Mr Wynne, the approvals have come after a thorough and independent planning panel process that included community consultation.

‘‘We’ve done the work to address local concerns and made sure all potential impacts on irrigation farmland and the district more broadly were considered in the decision,’’ he said.

Ms Sheed hoped the Victorian Government would stick to its own rules and expected the City of Greater Shepparton to do the same.

‘‘Six hundred new jobs is a silver lining on this cloud, as is the prospect of 175 megawatts of sustainable energy being fed into the grid, but surely this result could have been achieved in a different location in our region,’’ she said.

‘‘I call on the Andrews Government to ratify the guidelines immediately, so there is certainty going forward for farmers, energy providers and planners in where future solar farms will be approved.’’

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