Independent Member for Shepparton District Suzanna Sheed says solar farm investment in regional communities must not come at the cost of prime agricultural land.
Ms Sheed said while she supported renewable energy development and welcomed investment in solar farms in Shepparton District, a balance must be found that supports the region’s extensive food production industry.
“We are lucky to enjoy so many days of sunshine in Shepparton District and our potential to become Victoria’s Solar City has been touted for several decades,” Ms Sheed said.
“We all want to see investment in solar power, but agriculture is at the heart of our community and our regional economy, and it is important that this is protected so we can continue to do what we do best, and that is produce clean, green, high-quality food.”
Four planning applications for solar farms in Shepparton District will be considered by Panels Victoria next week after being called in by Minister for Planning Richard Wynne in February.
The outcome of the hearings will inform state-wide guidelines for solar planning currently being developed by the Victorian Government.
“I wrote to the Ministers for Planning, Water, Regional Development and Energy last year to raise my concerns about the lack of guidelines available to support local councils in making appropriate planning decisions in relation to solar energy in regional areas, and it is pleasing to see the Government taking action on this,” Ms Sheed said.
“We’ve seen the negative effect water buybacks have had on our irrigation network in terms of its ability to deliver water to farmers and I am concerned having largescale solar farms developed on high-value, highly productive irrigated land would be similarly detrimental.
“In researching this matter closely and speaking to individuals and government agencies, it has become clear to me that there is a range of available land in our region that is away from irrigated infrastructure and close to the grid, which would be much more suitable for solar developments that we could all welcome.”
For more information on the Panels Victoria process, visit www.planning.vic.gov.au/panels-and-committees/browse-panels-and-committees/projects/greater-shepparton-solar-farm-panel#overview
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