Image Upload

File size must be less than 2Mb

You must have online publishing permission or full ownership of this image

File types (jpg, png, gif)

  • Hero image
    Rupanyup’s Andrew Weidemann, spokesperson for the newly formed Southern Wimmera Renewables Research Association.

Cross-industry collaboration encouraged between farmers and industry

A Grain Producers Australia leader is encouraging farmers to look to the mining industry’s approach to land access and use in projects as an indicator of leading practice for looming major renewable- energy projects.

Independent non-executive director of Grain Producers Australia, GPA, Mitch Hooke spoke with southern Wimmera farmers and community members about proposed projects.

Rupanyup’s Andrew Weidemann, spokesperson for the newly formed Southern Wimmera Renewables Research Association, SWRRA, and a GPA board member, invited Mr Hooke to answer concerns of the group.

Mr Weidemann said Mr Hooke was globally recognised for strategic leadership in public policy advocacy and knowledge of commercial practices and operations.

Article continues below

He said Mr Hooke had experience as a national and international industry leader across the agricultural, food and mining industries.

“This was particularly relevant to the situation facing SWRRA members,” Mr Weidemann said.

Mr Hooke said Victoria’s regulatory requirements for new mining projects had established a compliance framework of key criteria for an environmental effects assessment.

This included a social impact assessment, the mandated expectations of a community consultation process, requirements for local government permits and licenses for associated infrastructure, and a ‘no go’ without a comprehensive plan and the payment of a surety bond to reclaim and rehabilitate the site in closing operations at the end of a mine’s life.

Mr Hooke said reconciling requirements for renewable-energy projects with requirements of mining provided SWRRA members a clinical means to address key concerns. He said renewable energy companies should understand earning and maintaining a social license was critical, adding communication with communities was about engagement rather than consulting – an active partnership to share risks and rewards.

Mr Hooke encouraged proponents to engage early and often, while being consistent and honest to build mutual respect within a community.

Mr Weidemann said he believed renewable energy had a ‘long way to go’ to mirror changes the mining industry successfully upheld.

“It was also very clear the mining industry was subjected to a proper government-legislated reclamation and rehabilitation process,” he said.

“The Wimmera has already seen the botched rehabilitation process left from the closure of the Wimmera-Mallee piped scheme, with farmers left to carry the physical and financial burden on culvert and channel rehabilitation, at their own cost, long after the proponents departed.”

Mr Weidemann said Mr Hooke did not hold back in his counsel to how farmers and communities should approach those seeking access to their land.

“We need to listen to the advice provided by experienced experts such as Mr Hooke and ensure we know the difference between false promises and inducements, and genuine community engagement and mutually beneficial outcomes,” he said.

The SWRRA is a not-for-profit group that aims to research and communicate community concerns around the proposed establishment of a wind farm in the Wimmera. It plans to advocate for governments to respond to community concerns about long-lasting impacts a wind farm could have on a community, as well as a properly legislated reclamation and rehabilitation scheme.

The entire February 14, 2024 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!