March 2, 2018
Farmers hosting turbines at AGL’s Coopers Gap project are going to be slugged an extra $470 per turbine every year for the 25-year life of the wind farm.
Western Downs Regional Council, which shares the wind farm footprint with the SBRC, is also expected to levy extra rates on wind turbines in its area.
southburnett.com.au estimates the South Burnett Regional Council’s take would be about $29,000 a year.
The rates rise was discussed at AGL’s quarterly Community Consultative Committee meeting at Cooranga North Hall on Thursday afternoon.
South Burnett wind farm hosts at the meeting said they recently received letters from Council advising them they would be levied the extra charge because they were now regarded as “energy generators”.
The Council already levies substantial rates on the Tarong Power Stations based on similar reasoning.
AGL Construction Manager Tim Knill told the meeting the company had been informed the SBRC wanted to impose the extra rates on turbine hosts.
He believed the Council was within its legal rights to do so, and noted that councils bordering AGL’s interstate wind farms followed a similar practice.
However, he said AGL would be supporting the turbine hosts through the issue and senior staff were already working behind the scenes to see if an equitable arrangement could be struck.
Cr Ros Heit, who attended the meeting, confirmed she was aware of the extra levy but told the meeting she believed Council could have handled the issue better.
After the meeting, southburnett.com.au spoke to one of the turbine hosts, who wished to remain anonymous.
The person said their family owned four properties in the area and paid a combined $15,000 a year in rates already.
The only service they received from the Council was upkeep on their roads which they said had been in an appalling condition for many years.
“We have asked the Council to fix our roads for year after year, but nothing has ever been done,” they said.
“One of our roads got so bad we were afraid our utility would tip over or get bogged, so we had to purchase a 4WD to be sure we’d be safe using it.”
They said the Council told them it would be adding the extra charge to their rates immediately because they recently received a construction payment from AGL.
This payment was compensation for inconvenience they would suffer while the wind farm was under construction. They thought it was unfair to levy the extra charge for 18 months while the wind farm was being built.
“Until it’s finished and putting power into the grid, all this area is just a construction zone,” they said.
They emphasised they owned two near-identical properties with similar valuations – one in the South Burnett council area and one in Western Downs.
“The rates we pay Western Downs are almost half what we pay to the South Burnett,” they said.
“We pay the road levy and we have no waste collection service, no water and no sewerage, so all we get for it in services are our roads.
“In the circumstances, we don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask that we have functional roads to access our properties – not super-highways, just dirt roads that are graded and safe.
“But we’ve been told our roads are low priority and if they’re going to get fixed, we’re a very long way down the list.
“So yes, we’re upset about this.”
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On Friday, South Burnett Mayor Keith Campbell said the Council was working very closely with AGL and the contractors delivering the Coopers Gap Wind Farm project.
“At this stage, many avenues are being explored to get the best outcomes for our ratepayers,” the Mayor said.
“One of the options we have discussed is a proposed energy rate.
“No formal decision has yet been made on the amount or in what form the calculation will be based.
“Council’s communication to the landholders was an act of courtesy to advise that a form of ‘energy rate’ would be applied to each wind tower.
“This was to ensure that it became a matter for discussion between them and AGL.
“This issue is expected to be finalised soon for presentation to Council.”