The Independent Planning Commission are now tasked with weighing up the improvement of Aarons Pass Road at the expense of an additional 5.05 ha of vegetation clearing, after they held a public meeting on the proposed changes to the Crudine Ridge Wind Farm.
The modification is to reduce the maximum number of wind turbines from 77 to 37 and a revised road design for Aarons Pass Road which would see more trees cleared in order to deliver components to the site.
Those speaking against the proposal pointed to the biodiversity disturbance, particularly koalas. "This modification seeks to destroy thousands of trees and annihilate a relatively untouched and unique eco system. Allowing this is a complete contradiction to what this project is supposedly trying to achieve," Chontelle Rowland-Jones said.
An issue raised was that the additional clearing was to transport turbine blades measuring 67m, which is four metres longer than those assessed in the previous approval. Work on the road ceased last August following concerns raised about the extent of tree clearing and CWP Renewables determined that they would exceed what they were permitted to remove.
However, the Department of Planning and Environment - who greenlit the modification when referring it to the IPC - in their assessment report said that they were aware of the switch to the longer blades and didn't cite this as the reason for the need for extra clearing.
Rather, it pointed to a more detailed civil works package, granted a Section 138 approval in July 2018, which required additional clearing " principally [for] MWRC's road safety requirements including adequate passing bays and site distances".
Speaking for the modification, Brenden Cole said, "when all is said and done, the proposal allows for the clearing of less than six hectares of Stringybark trees and less than one hectare of Box Gum trees. Koalas are at a greater threat from disease in Australia than they ever will be from the upgrade of the Aarons Pass Road".
- The IPC accepts written comments up to one week after the public meeting (Tuesday, June 11). Information and all documents at ipcn.nsw.gov.au.