Knowing how to object to this proposal requires a bit of knowledge about how the relevant approval process works. There are several formal occasions during which members of the local community (or indeed anyone) can lodge objections, in a defined period. Outside those periods members of the community can complain to the relevant NSW Department of Planning and Environment (DPE), to local MPs, the minister etc, but there are limits to the effectiveness, since at those times a formal decision is not being made and the recipient (say an MP) will pass the concern to the Minister who will pass it to the Department which will usually say "wait till one of the formal times to object". There may be some objections that need to be made to the Department outside those occasions, e.g. if the developer is intruding on your property uninvited, in which case, on past experience, the Department will tell them to desist.
State Significant Development Process
The proposed Jupiter wind farm is a State Significant Development (SSD), which means the State Government makes the decision to approve or reject it. Local councils can express a view but they are not the consent authority and cannot themselves block it.
As with all SSDs, there is a fairly extensive process to be followed, laid out below:
|Request SEARS||After some initial scouting the developer requests what are currently called SEARS (previously DGRS, sometimes EARS), which stands for Secretary's Environmental Assessment Requirements.|
|SEARS Issued||DPE issues the SEARS, which specify in detail what the developer is supposed to do in preparing their Environmental Assessment (also called EIS for Environmental Impact Study). The developer is also supposed to comply with the draft NSW Wind Farm Guidelines and with the general environmental regulations applying to SSDs.||Issued to EPYC Jan 31, 2014|
|Submit EIS||The developer spends time with its consultants doing supposedly the various things the SEARS specify and then writing up an EIS and DA to justify its proposal. and then submits it to DPE.||Submitted by EPYC Sep/Oct 2015|
|Review pre Public Exhibiton||DPE reviews the EIS to determine whether suitable to go on public exhibition. At this stage DPE is not considering whether the proposal should be approved but whether the EIS does what the SEARS specified and whether it meets all other requirements for release.||Rejected by DPE 29 Oct 2015|
The EIS and supporting documents are publicly released for comment by community members and by relevant organisations such as councils and specialist government agencies. The normal exhibition period for a wind farm is 60 days, though if it falls over the Dec/Jan period it is normally extended.
The DPE web site has a section where the documents appear and where submissions can be uploaded.
|Respond to Submissions||DPE sends all the submissions to the developer to consider and respond to submissions (RTS) with comments and/or additional work it wants the Department to consider in making recommendations. This stage may take a few months or much longer. Some wind farms have taken more than 12 months for RTS, presumably depending on how challenging are the objections received.|
Once it receives the RTS, DPE takes that plus the EIS and the submissions and considers them to prepare its recommendations. Even if recommending the wind farm be approved, it will normally recommend some detailed consent conditions. This stage will also take months and it is possible the Department will seek more information from the developer.
The DPE's recommendations go to the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) to consider and make a determination (approval / rejection / conditions) on the proposal.
The PAC will normally arrange a public hearing and call for further submissions which it considers and makes its determination. It expects submissions to be about the Department's recommendations rather than the original EIS, since it claims it already has and considers all the original material as well as the Department's recommendations and analysis.
Typically the public meeting happens about a month after the PAC receives the Department's recommendations and there is likely to be a couple of weeks to prepare for the meeting and any written submission.
If from the PAC viewpoint the decision is not problematic, it is typically made within about 6 weeks of the PAC meeting. However, if there is persuasive evidence of problems in the Department's recommendations the PAC is likely to refer the matter back to the Department and that can take many months.
|Legal Avenue||There may be legal opportunities for challenge. They tend to be quite expensive.|
Official documentation for the Jupiter proposal is available on the major projects section website of the Department of Planning and Environment's website. It provides information released to date, a status indicator, and when the project is open for public exhibition a form for lodging objections and, after the exhibition period closes, it provides copies of all the submissions made to the Department. The URL for Jupiter on the major projects website is http://majorprojects.planning.nsw.gov.au/index.pl?action=view_job&job_id=6277.
Once a project is referred to the PAC, details of the PAC review of the project can be found by searching for the project at http://www.pac.nsw.gov.au/Projects/tabid/77/Default.aspx.
EPYC has submitted its EIS to DPE which has reviewed it and decided it is unsuitable for public exhibition. So it has rejected the EIS. The Department issue a press release explaining the reasons. The matter has also been covered in the Goulburn Post and Canberra Times.
Objections to the project are formally accepted by the Department while the project EIS is on public exhibition. The process for lodging such objections (or just comments) and things to consider is outlined here. If the project proceeds to a PAC determination, the Department will make a recommendation to the PAC, and objections/comments at that stage are intended to be about the Department's recommendations rather than the original EIS. The PAC has access to the original EIS and to objections lodged with the Department at the time of public exhibition. Objections to the PAC are provided to the PAC, not to the Department, as objections stated at a PAC meeting and/or written submissions.