Wind resources vital to region

ARARAT - A variety of voices from Ararat and surrounds have called for the Federal Government to strengthen its renewable energy policy so that Ararat can fully benefit from its wind resources.

A petition to be distributed throughout the Ararat area will call on Prime Minister Tony Abbott to ensure the Renewable Energy Target (RET) is secured which will allow for proposed wind farms in the region, including at Crowlands and another just out of Ararat, to move ahead.

A group of wind farm supporters gathered last week at Challicum Hills Wind Farm to launch the petition which also included a video detailing the story of Graeme Maconachie, who hosts a wind farm on his property 20km east of Ararat.

"Hosting wind turbines on my farm has been on of the best decisions I've ever made," Mr Maconachie said.

"It's been a great financial benefit in tough times, but I also know I've played my part in safeguarding my grandchildren's generation from the worst of climate change."

Gwenda Allgood, who has been a personal advocator of wind energy for more than 10 years, said what the government decides to do with the RET will have a big impact on Ararat and is hopeful the petition will generate enough support for politicians in Canberra to take notice.

"Ararat's people have always been supportive of the wind farm and there's really not a person that I can see in Ararat that hasn't benefited from the community fund or from the rates that these (businesses) pay or from the roads that they maintain for the farmers," she said.

"These farmers here today, some of them aren't even affected by this, they are not going to get a tower on their property. They have no other interest other than the fact they just love that these wind farms can be such a success and can protect the environment.

"There are other opportunities, RES for example are interested, I can see this as being a real saviour for the farmer because he is really struggling.

"You've got to look around here and see the dry dams and problems with the dry paddocks and if there can be another income for that farmer I think it all goes well for the future of Ararat."

Greg Carroll, how attended the launch of the petition as a representative of a local business, said by maintaining and strengthening the RET it is future proofing farming in the region, which has a flow on affect into the business sector of Ararat.

"It flows into the Ararat community in different ways, like Pacific Hydro's community grant schemes which is just fantastic and organisations I've been involved in have benefited from that," he said.

"Rather than governments giving farmers hand outs in bad times, they are better off to promote this sort of stuff. Maintain the RET at the very least, but preferably expand it because it is then giving people ownership as Graeme has here and others have and they are not then saying 'oh we have a drought, I need a hand out' - that's got to be better.

"If I got the opportunity I would say to Tony Abbott, you are out assisting farmers in western New South Wales and Queensland and that's fine, they badly need assistance they are in a bad way with drought, but surely it is better if you have schemes going where they can set up their own energy production, whether it be solar or wind, and future proof themselves against droughts rather than say 'where are we going to find some money'.

"It stabilises the whole situation."

Victorian Wind Alliance state coordinator Andrew Bray said future projects in the Ararat region would not go ahead until the future of the RET was determined.

Last week Mr Abbott announced the Federal Government would begin a review into the Renewable Energy Target scheme with significant changes expected to be released by mid-year.

Copies of the Ararat petition are available to sign at Carroll's Saddlery in Barkly Street.

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