Prior to lodging an application to build the wind farm a referral must be made to the Victorian Minister for Planning to determine if an Environmental Effects Statement (EES) is required for the project and to Commonwealth Government to determine if approval is required under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act 1999.
Following decisions made by the Victorian Minister for Planning and the Federal Minister for Environment in July 2020 the Delburn Wind Farm will apply for a Planning Permit under the Planning and Environment Act. The Minister for Planning is responsible for making decisions on applications for renewable energy facilities.
There is a significant amount of documentation that needs to be prepared for the application, including project description, project design and details about any potential impacts on the environment. Many supporting documents are required to accompany the application, including the technical assessments on subjects such as noise, visual and landscape impact, traffic, economics, biodiversity, and bush fire risk.
Information gathered for preliminary reports (required for the referral processes) need to be considered in more detail to finalise these assessments and to reflect changes made to the design to minimise the environmental impacts of the project.
Once the documentation is complete the process is as follows:
- Application – OSMI will submit three planning applications for approval to build a wind energy facility (one for each local government area, being Latrobe City, South Gippsland Shire and Baw Baw Shire) and a planning application for a utility installation (terminal station and supporting infrastructure to connect to the grid) to the Minister for Planning. Given the complexity of an application across three local government areas and the need for a separate application relating to the utility installation, OSMI will request that the Minister for Planning ‘call in’ all related applications to allow the project to be assessed under a single process.
- Validation – the planning section of Department of Environment, Land, Water, and Planning (DELWP) will assess the application to verify if it contains sufficient information for an assessment of the project to be made.
- Referrals – DELWP will send information out to the relevant referral agencies such as Regional Roads Victoria, CFA, local water catchment authorities, and the environment section of DELWP for each area of technical assessment.
- Community submissions – the application will be made available to the public and open for public comment. This is the time when the public has the chance to provide feedback on the project and will be advertised widely.
- Panel hearing – if the applications are called-in by the Minister for Planning and submissions are made during the public comment period, a panel will be called by the by the Minister for Planning, appointed by Planning Panels Victoria and hearing dates announced. Panel hearings are usually held locally, to allow the community to attend; however, hearings are being held remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The hearing allows the panel to hear from the project developer and the technical specialists who prepared the planning permit application and for the community to present their views on the project. Depending on the number of people who wish to present to the panel, this process usually runs for 2-3 weeks.
- Deliberation and recommendations – the panel will deliberate on the proceedings and prepare a recommendations report to the Minister for Planning.
- Decision – The Minister will consider the findings and recommendations of the panel and determine whether to grant a planning permit or not. There may be conditions associated with a permit.