Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Better energy consultation vital say farmers: NSW Farmers Association

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NSW Farmers Association, Media Release, 18 January 2024

Farmers are backing calls for the Federal Government to review community engagement on renewable energy projects to ensure smarter, safer and more sustainable solutions to power the nation.

With Energy Minister Chris Bowen yet to release the findings from a recent review into community engagement practices for renewable projects, farmers are urging energy developers to step up their game when it comes to consulting with regional communities.

NSW Farmers member and Dunedoo farmer Emma Bowman had seen firsthand poor community consultation on infrastructure projects in her local region, and believed the process was marred by a lack of communication and due diligence.

“To date, many farmers have had a very disappointing experience with the community consultation – or lack thereof – around the transmission lines set to run through their properties,” Ms Bowman said.

“Government developers don’t seem to want the input or knowledge that local farmers have to give and are instead using their powers of compulsory acquisition to draw a line on the map and build wherever they like, with little consultation.”

Ms Bowman said improvements to the community consultation process for renewable projects were vital to ensuring farmers could operate their businesses alongside the proposed energy infrastructure.

“Failing to properly consult farmers means many renewable projects aren’t being put in the right place – for example, there is project infrastructure such as roads being built on floodplains and transmission lines or solar panels being placed over our most valuable and productive land,” Ms Bowman said.

“There has also been inadequate consultation around water use, which is particularly worrying as we don’t know how much water these projects will leave for farmers and the community.”

With regional communities already grappling with poor road infrastructure and a lack of essential services, Ms Bowman said things had to change if a safe and sustainable transition to renewable energy for the nation was to be achieved.

“Regional NSW should not have to suffer like this for the sake of our nation’s power supply,” Ms Bowman said.

“Everyone wants to feel good about where their energy comes from and do the right thing for the environment – but if we continue as we are, we won’t have the agricultural land to feed the nation.

“Engaging farmers properly in these renewable energy projects is the only way we can make use of renewable energy without causing long-term damage to the agricultural industry and its communities.”

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