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Leaseholders present plan

Tuesday, 11th March, 2008

A proposal to change the lease formula for Western Lands leases, instead of resuming land at Silverton for a wind farm, will be considered by the NSW Minister for Lands, Tony Kelly. 

The Minister said he would consider the option before making a final decision about resuming the land, his spokesman said yesterday.

He said the Mr Kelly promised there would be no resumption of land until wind farm development approval was granted. 

Resumption would only be looked at once Epuron was ready to start construction, said the spokesman. 

The Minister made the commitment at a meeting with the four leaseholders involved and their families at Silverton on Saturday.

Mr Kelly told them he would not stand in the way of issuing a licence to Epuron (development application approval), according to his spokesman. He added that a development application was expected to be lodged in November. 

The leaseholders presented the Minister with a preliminary submission, suggesting he consider an alternative. 

Nigel Lawrence, spokesman for the leaseholders, said it urged Mr Kelly to leave the lease structure as it was under the Western Lands Act. 

"We suggested they generate revenue from a rental arrangement, by changing the lease formula to accommodate intensive industries which could include wind farms or any form of renewable energy." 

He said lease payments to the government would include a wind farm component, allowing the landowners to negotiate directly with Epuron. It was also suggested the Minister consider a licence fee for each turbine as another option. Mr Kelly took the suggestions on board, said his spokesman. 

"He also stipulated the land had to be leased back once the wind turbines are up and running, on a sub-lease to the leaseholders." 

The spokesman said Mr Kelly also restated his commitment that the leaseholders would be adequately compensated for the "intrusion" of the wind farm, including loss of grazing rights. 

It was stressed to the Minister that construction would pose the most disruption to the leaseholders and the land.

"There's going to be about 3,000 people out there building this and afterwards 100 ongoing to work on them." 

The leaseholders were also reminded by the Minister that he had to ensure security of land tenure for the wind farm. "Tony explained it's a major infrastructure project and there's an enormous amount of money involved." 

The leaseholders in turn tried to show how complicated the government's resumption plan would be. 

"We showed him from one of the hills the land involved, and using maps showing the homesteads, the complexity of sub-dividing the land," said Mr Lawrence.

"One property will be divided to the point of not making it viable at all." 

Mr Lawrence said they also demonstrated that for over 100 years leaseholders had changed use of purposes of the leases. 

"We've got the Western Division to a standard where Western Lands properties are as good as freehold. 

"It would be an insult to 100 years of hard work to go down this path." Mr Lawrence said Mr Kelly appeared to be genuine about their concerns. 

"He listened, there were no hostilities and the Minister asked genuine questions...he took things on board better than the Department of Lands." 

Mr Kelly's spokesman said he had gained an insight into how each of the leaseholders felt about the wind farm.

"I think it was very important he met with the people actually affected by this, and hear their point of view and get a clear understanding of what the issues are and what some of the preferred solutions could be. 

"He heard their perspective on things and there's a varying perspective from each family...some are very welcoming of the wind farm and some don't want anything to do with it." 

Mr Lawrence said the landholders will now work on a formal submission to deliver to the Minister within a month. He said support for their cause was growing every day. 

"This thing is gathering momentum and he's got one hell of a fight on his hands if he continues down this path," said Mr Lawrence. 

"Once people and associations are briefed they get on board quick enough when they understand what it's going to do to the Western Division." 

But Mr Kelly's spokesman said the wind farm was not a certainty. "There's still a certain degree of 'if' about it,"' he said.

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