The three Upper Spencer Gulf mayors met with members of the State Planning Commission to work through inadequacies in the development planning for renewable energy facilities.
The commission spent time in Whyalla, Port Augusta and Port Pirie, meeting with the Spencer Gulf Cities group and visiting some of the sites for proposed renewable energy projects.
Spencer Gulf Cities Chair and Port Augusta Mayor Sam Johnson said it was great to give the commission a clear illustration of the geography and social impacts of these projects.
“I really give credit to the Commission members because their degree of questioning was very good,” he said.
“I know they definitely went away with a better understanding about the local impact for these projects.”
With development and planning approvals for the region’s renewable energy projects undertaken by the commission and state government, Mayor Johnson said the three councils have been left powerless.
However, he is hopeful that the meetings will lead to the Adelaide-based commission taking local input into consideration.
“The only way council can get a hearing for these projects is to actually oppose the development, but we don’t want to oppose these projects,” Mayor Johnson said.
“We want to work with the state government to develop very logical and successful applications.”
Mayor Johnson said the Bungala solar farm was a prime example of a project that was approved in Adelaide with no local consultation.
Many residents reported dust problems during the construction of the solar farm on Depot Creek Road.
“We actually took the commission out to Depot Creek Road to show them an example of where they’ve approved something without that local knowledge and where that impulse has come back on to the community from a cost perspective and also an inconvenience for the local residents,” Mayor Johnson said.
“I know they were very appreciative to see that level of detail and those sort of examples presented to them.”
The mayors also raised their concerns about the fact that the renewable energy facilities would be exempt from paying council rates.
Mayor Johnson said the commission was unaware of this “strange anomaly”.
“We are embracive and we want to support and not deter business, but there’s obviously an impact, and what shouldn’t be acceptable is to have these big projects and then ask the existing ratepayers to support the projects and the surrounding infrastructure,” he said.
Port Augusta is home to an amazing 13 renewable energy projects.