BATHURST MP Paul Toole has slammed those in support of a 203-hectare solar farm that is proposed to be constructed on “prime agricultural land” at Brewongle.
If the $145 million project is approved, almost 400,000 solar panels will be installed on private land that has been leased to Photon Energy for 25 years.
While the project has met with determined protest from Brewongle residents, it has also attracted support from some people and groups, including from the Bathurst Community Climate Action Network.
Residents say the power plant will devalue neighbouring properties and rob the country of good farming land, while supporters say green energy options must be embraced.
“I’m sick and tired of these people that live in other areas of the state or the suburbs of Sydney who say it’s a good idea. I say to them ‘if it’s such a good idea, put it in your backyard’,” Mr Toole said.
“There’s plenty of land available around and I’m sure they can lease another piece of land that’s more suitable.
“That’s a lot of land, but at the end of the day this is on prime agricultural land.”
Mr Toole has backed Brewongle residents in their fight and said he will push for “strategies that rule out building solar on prime agricultural land”.
“There could be other locations in the vicinity [for the solar farm] that may be better and that they [residents] could be fine with,” he said.
Brewongle farmer Jeff Green, who has lived on the land his whole life, said the loss of the prime agricultural land was bigger than most people realise.
Photon Energy may have leased the land from a long-time Brewongle farmer for 25 years, but Mr Green said the land will not be at full production for many years after that.
“If they pull out in 25 years, it’ll take another 10 or 15 years to get it back to make it a productive property,” he said.
Where do they [the community] get their food from if they don’t get it from prime agricultural land?Brewongle farmer Jeff Green
“Where do they [the community] get their food from if they don’t get it from prime agricultural land?”
Meanwhile, almost 900 people have signed a petition against the solar farm’s approval.
Brewongle woman Peta O’Hara is behind the petition and said: “It’s not that we’re anti-solar, or anti-renewable, it’s just that this is in the wrong place.”
Due to the size and nature of the project the development application (DA) will be lodged with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, rather than Bathurst Regional Council.
The solar farm is also expected to meet the department’s guidelines to be considered a State Significant Development.
An independent body will then call for submissions from interested parties and hold a public meeting.
Once the DA is lodged, Mr Toole said it will go to an independent body who will call for submissions and hold a public meeting for people to have their say.
Photon has plans to build another seven solar farms across NSW, including at: Carrick, Gunnedah, Gunning, Leeton, Maryvale, Mumbil and Suntop.