The National Farmers’ Federation welcomes the release of the report into community engagement on renewables projects, but has raised red flags the report’s recommendations doesn’t even touch the sides in addressing the problems being felt across Australia.
NFF President David Jochinke said it was good to see the report by Energy Infrastructure Commissioner Andrew Dyer propose ways to improve community engagement, but significant concerns remained.
“The report confirms there are chronic problems, with a survey showing a staggering 92% of respondents were dissatisfied with the level of engagement from project developers,” Mr Jochinke said.
The survey also found more than 90% of people were dissatisfied with the information being provided or with their concerns being resolved.
“This is a staggeringly poor reflection on the situation to date and it simply can’t go on.
“Yet the report does very little to provide concrete solutions, instead referring to development of best practice guidelines and rating schemes.
“This is the exact kind of bureaucracy farmers and every day Australians are sick and tired of. It will do nothing to reassure farmers and communities their interests are being acknowledged or protected.
“It’s critical engagement is a two way street and that engagement is genuine, addresses concerns and goes further than energy companies ticking a box ‘we’ve told them our plan’.”
The report suggests there needs to be better identification of preferred locations for new projects, as well as provision and confirmation of ‘no-go’ or inappropriate zones.
“We need to see strong leadership from the Government, so we don’t lose valuable agricultural land in the rush to get transmission connectivity. The NFF stands ready to work with government to drive these outcomes as a matter of urgency,” Mr Jochinke said.
“The report contained no commentary on tax treatment of payments and compensation, nor equitable processes for negotiation of access and payment regimes. These need urgent attention.”
The NFF specifically recommended enforceable obligations on energy proponents which govern engagement, compensation, land access arrangements and minimise impact on land use.
However, Mr Jochinke said these fell far short and while the NFF notes the recommendation to create a developer rating scheme, this needs to be a precondition for any developer to access approval or public funding.
“Some of these recommendations look good on paper but will require commitment to deliver meaningful outcomes.
“It is time the Government makes the structural and legislative changes required so energy project developers do not continue to run roughshod over communities and individual landholders.
“We believe we can get the balance right between meeting our primary production and energy requirements, but if the Government doesn’t act now, the projects will destroy community harmony through lack of social license.”