MS LAWDER (Brindabella) (11.20): I thank Mr Wall for his motion today. Since the announcement about the solar farm at Uriarra a month ago I too have been inundated with correspondence from the residents of Uriarra Village. The point they are trying to make is not about the merits of solar power, the ACT's targets or the DA process. It is about the community who live at Uriarra Village, the families who have chosen to make Uriarra their home. It is about noise, loss of amenity and loss of view, and subsequent loss of value of their homes, as Mr Rattenbury pointed out earlier. It is about the proposed location of the solar farm. The Assembly has the opportunity today to send the message that the proposed location is not acceptable and we can save the proponent the time, effort and money of going through with that particular location.
Many people who purchased in the area did so based on the community idea and the rural outlook—not being too far away from the capital of Australia but feeling like they are nowhere near it. The village has been developed in a way that ensures best sustainable practices by enforcement of rainwater tanks, sewerage treatment, internal fire sprinkler systems on each house and many other requirements. Although there is a lot of regulation in the building stage, it is a much loved village and community for all those who have chosen to live there.
So we just need to pause and reflect on what is facing the citizens of Uriarra at present. Imagine you have a young family and like many other Australians you want to bring them up in a rural community lifestyle. You come across Uriarra Village in searching for options for your family. After going through the application process you purchase a block of land in the village. Over a couple of years you spend a lot of time and money building a house for your family following all the requirements which come at no small cost.
Your house is facing the direction which is stipulated in the development rules. You have your rainwater tank, sewerage system and fire protection system just as the development process requires. You move into your new house, potentially with quite a high mortgage. You have to work long and hard to pay off the mortgage and the expenses for your move to your new lifestyle, but because of the benefits of living in this community you know it is worth while. You sit on your front porch and have a coffee in the morning while the kids play in the street with the surrounding neighbours and you know your constant hard work to afford your lifestyle is worth it.
Then one day you hear an announcement that the government is going to have a solar farm developed not even 100 metres from your front porch. The rural feel and outlook will be gone with 26,100 solar panels, 2.5 metres high plus security fencing being built right in front of your home. You abided by all the development requirements to ensure your home fitted in with the rural feel and outlook of the village, but regardless of what you have done, it was all about to be destroyed by this potential development.
Your mortgage, which may be higher because you wanted to live in the village atmosphere and because you followed all the requirements, could end up being more than what your property would then be worth. The value of your property might plummet. Your view, which is currently paddocks and mountains, will become one of fences and solar panel construction.
This is the story that many Uriarra residents are facing. Whether it is a young family or a retired couple, the village is full of people who have made sacrifices and worked hard to be able to live in a village providing them with a lifestyle they desire. These families do not understand why a proposal to build this enormous solar farm so close to their village may go ahead. With thousands upon thousands of hectares available in that area, why? Why is the proposal to have this within 100 metres of their homes?
Ironically most of the homes in Uriarra face towards the proposed site because of the development rules; so it is not something in their backyard but in their front yard. The key design objective in Uriarra Village has always been to maintain the rural character of the village. The exhaustive set of criteria which needs to be followed by those building there is only to ensure this aim is achieved.
Madam Speaker, one family who live in Uriarra and who have raised their concerns over this proposal moved there a few years ago. Previously they lived in Macarthur. But five years ago when there was a plan to build a gas-fired power station near their home in the middle of suburbia, they decided to move. Although the power station plan was eventually scuttled by community opposition, they made the decision to go to the rural village of Uriarra for the atmosphere and community for their young children.
It was obviously an unwelcome surprise when it became known they would face similar concerns years later in an even more unreasonable location. This time, instead of being one kilometre from their home, it may be just over 100 metres from their home. How is this fair?
Elementus Energy have a statement on their website. Part of that statement says, "The solar farm is to be located in the district of Coree approximately 30 kilometres to the west of Canberra. It is to be located on 40 hectares of rural grazing land and will complement the current land use."If you read that statement on its own without any knowledge of the village of Uriarra, that might sound very reasonable. But I pose the question: how does a 26,000 panel solar farm complement the current land use? How does it complement this lovely rural village?
I echo Mr Wall's comments and I encourage the minister to listen to the residents of Uriarra and work with the proponent to identify an area of land that is not so close to people's homes. I encourage the minister to guarantee the people of Uriarra that he will not use his call-in powers to progress the development. I encourage the minister to listen to what the residents are saying, to gain an understanding of the situation they are in and genuinely take a moment to consider the consequences for these families and this community.
Again, I thank Mr Wall for bringing this motion to the house today and I urge the minister to consider the views of the Uriarra community.