OPPOSITION MLA Andrew Wall has called on Environment and Sustainable Development Minister Simon Corbell to use his call-powers to stop a proposed solar farm near Uriarra Village, which is opposed by many residents, but to agree not to use the powers to approve the solar farm.Mr Wall, one of the five MLAs representing Brindabella, moved an unsuccessful motion in the Legislative Assembly today asking Mr Corbell not to use his call-in powers to approve the construction of the solar farm, against the wishes of the concerned group of residents, some of whom protested at the Legislative Assembly today.
“This project is causing great concern among residents and they have the right to see the full Development Application process run its course,” Mr Wall said.
Mr Corbell has not suggested he would use his call-in powers to approve the development without consideration of community concerns, and has previously said Uriarra Village residents will be able to voice their concerns in a public consultation process that has not begun yet.
However the residents and the Liberal Opposition, which has taken up their cause, suspect the solar farm is already a done deal between the ACT Government and OneSun, the company that hopes to build it.
This suggestion is strongly denied by Minister Corbell, who said the Government had so far only awarded a special feed-in tariff rate to the proposed farm, which could be revoked, and that it still had to “secure all normal approvals”.
“Unfortunately Simon Corbell has a poor track record when it comes to using call-in powers on controversial developments in the ACT, and it would be a great insult to the ratepayers and taxpayers of Uriarra Village if they did not get the opportunity to raise their concerns about the social, financial and environmental impacts of this project in the DA process,” Mr Wall said.
“I call on the ACT Government, and particularly the ACT Greens Minister Shane Rattenbury, to support the motion I will move in the Assembly, and allow residents their say on a project that could potentially have a very negative impact on their lives.”
After Mr Wall’s motion failed to be passed in the Assembly, he issued a statement this afternoon saying Mr Rattenbury had “completely failed the residents of Uriarra” by not supporting his motion and, going even further than this morning, called on Simon Corbell to stop the development from going ahead using the call-in powers.
Mr Rattenbury did not support Mr Wall’s motion because the Liberals did not support an amendment to it that he proposed.
The Greens Minister proposed to amend the motion so that Mr Corbell could not use his call-in powers at all in relation to the Uriarra solar farm – either to stop it or approve it – but the Liberals did not support his changes.
Mr Wall said he wanted Minister Corbell to “still have the option available to him … to disallow the application altogether” using the call-in powers, although he did not want him to be able to use them to approve the project.
Earlier this year, the Greens representative suggested that Mr Corbell used call-in powers too often to approve developments, marginalising the views of residents, and said he would move for the powers to be more tightly restricted at some point this year. Mr Corbell’s response at the time was that only 0.25 per cent of developments had been approved that way in a three-year period.
“The ACT Greens strongly support the Government in their roll out of the large-scale solar farms as part of meeting our renewable energy target, however the Government has a responsibility to ensure that proper processes are undertaken,” Mr Rattenbury said today.
“The use of call-in powers removes a community’s right to appeal through ACAT, and the Greens see this as a denial of democracy in a carefully constructed planning system. This is an issue that the Greens have expressed concerns about over many, many years.
“Political or ministerial intervention in decision-making should be kept to a bare minimum to ensure that good and fair decisions are made.”
Minister Corbell said it was “a myth, and very misleading” to claim that the use of call-in powers overrides the public consultation process, arguing that the only effect of using the powers was to make the Minister the decision-maker, rather than the Planning and Land Authority.
“Whether the minister or the Planning Authority is the decision-maker makes no difference to any of those processes,” he said this afternoon.