Significant changes to planning schemes in Victoria in relation to wind energy facilities were gazetted on Tuesday 15 March 2011. These changes were foreshadowed earlier in the month by the Victorian Coalition government and implement Coalition election commitments.

Amendment VC78 to the Victoria Planning Provisions and all Victorian planning schemes (Amendment) changes the general policy settings in relation to wind energy facilities, the specific standards used to assess proposals for such facilities, application requirements, and the decision maker for applications for wind energy facilities.

Specifically, the Amendment amends:

  • Clause 19.01 of the State Planning Policy Framework to promote greater consideration of the effects of a Wind energy facility proposal on the local community.
  • Clause 52.32 - Wind energy facility to:
    • include an additional application requirement for:
      • a plan showing all dwellings within two kilometres of a proposed turbine
      • a concept plan showing associated transmission infrastructure, electricity utility works and access roads.
    • replace the 1998 New Zealand Standard - NZS6808 with the new 2010 version.
    • introduce transitional arrangements that exempt pre-existing planning permits for a Wind energy facility from any obligation under the new provisions forming part of this amendment for a 12 month period.
  • Clause 61.01 to remove the Minister’s decision-making powers regarding wind energy facilities, making the council the responsible authority for all planning permit applications for the use and development of land for the purpose of a Wind energy facility.
  • Clause 81.01 to introduce the Policy and Planning Guidelines for Development of Wind Energy Facilities in Victoria, March 2011 as an incorporated document and referencing the updated document in Clauses 19.01 and 52.32.

(Explanatory Report for the Amendment)

The new Planning Guidelines for Development of Wind Energy Facilities in Victoria, March 2011 are not publicly available at the time of writing.

As a result of the Amendment, Victorian wind farm planning policy is considerably more focused on local amenity. The new noise standards are stricter than those being replaced, and it seems likely that the new Planning Guidelines will be more onerous than their predecessor.

The Coalition's wind farm election policy included prohibiting turbines within 2km of a dwelling except where there is an agreement in place between the resident and the wind farm developer. The Amendment has not implemented this policy, although the Planning Guidelines may encourage or require such an approach.

In terms of transitional arrangements, where the following applications are made before 15 March 2012 in relation to a permit for a Wind energy facility that was issued before 15 March 2011, the pre-Amendment version of clauses 19.01-1, 52.32, 61.01 and 81.01 applies:

  • An application under section 69 for an extension of time under a permit.
  • An application to a responsible authority for an amendment of a permit.
  • An application to the Tribunal to cancel or amend a permit.
  • An application to the Tribunal for review arising from one of the above applications (clause 52.32-4).

Any extension of time of a permit granted pursuant to these transitional arrangements must specify an expiry date for the commencement of the development no later than 15 March 2012 (clause 52.32-4).

It is envisaged that local councils will be provided with assistance to carry out their new roles, and that complex and cross-municipality projects may still be decided by the Minister. The potential for Ministerial call-ins of permit applications remains.