Pastoral Land Management and Conservation (Renewable Energy) Amendment Bill

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: I was not really reflecting on the work of the committee, just the sleep of the committee, Mr President. However, I will move on. The catalyst for the select committee being established was the implementation of the statewide development plan amendment, the interim operation, which we saw on the last day that Mike Rann was premier, and that being foisted upon South Australia with the help of the then planning minister—he is still the planning minister—the Hon. John Rau. So we formed the select committee.

The Hon. Mark Parnell referred to a number of points or bits of evidence that we heard during that time. I just want to reiterate some of the points the minister made in his second reading speech. I note that in his speech the minister talked about our target of 20 per cent renewable energy by 2014 and 33 per cent of electricity generation by renewable sources by 2020. We are well down the path for that target, but we also have some of the most expensive energy in the world. I think we have to be mindful of the fact that we have had this honourable goal of trying to reduce our carbon footprint but, as a community, we have paid the price.

The minister also went on to talk about South Australia committing in 2013 to a target of a $10 billion investment in low-carbon generation by 2025. I just query the figures in his second reading speech. He said that since 2003 there has been $5.5 billion of investment in renewable energy, with some $2 billion (or 40 per cent) of this investment in regional areas.

I would like the minister to bring back some information regarding the $3½ billion in renewable energy and what people in South Australia have spent on rooftop solar systems. Or is that a mistake in his figures? Because a bit later on he goes on to say, 'According to the Clean Energy Council almost $3 billion has been invested in wind farms in South Australia,' which I assume would all be in regional areas. So I am not quite sure how you can have $2 billion in renewable energy in regional areas earlier in the minister's speech and then one paragraph later he talks about the Clean Energy Council saying that almost $3 billion has been invested in South Australia. I would appreciate some clarity around the figures he has used because, if they are that inaccurate three paragraphs into his second reading speech, then that does bring into question some of the other figures he has mentioned in his speech.

I also remind members that we have about 1,200 megawatts—according to the minister's speech, 1,203 megawatts—of installed capacity, or 559 turbines. My understanding is that there is about that much already approved again, so we are looking at another 1,200 megawatts or potentially—in fact, the turbines are slightly larger now—around 500 turbines already approved but not yet installed. So, I am interested to know why this government continues its love affair with renewable energy and yet the market seems to have stalled because it has been at about 1,200 megawatts for the last two years and we have not had any new developments take place.

Of course, this is about an amendment to the Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act. Some of the concerns raised when I was on the select committee—and I am not going to refer to the proceedings of the select committee—and I am sure my colleague the Hon. Michelle has raised this but I will raise it again, were in relation to the way the fee, or the licence fee, is to be apportioned. The minister, in his second reading explanation, stated:

A pastoral lessee stands to benefit financially from a wind farm licence. The South Australian government will charge a licence fee for use of pastoral lease land that is commensurate with that paid by wind farm developers to owners of freehold land. This fee will take account of the extra costs associated with development in remote areas…

What do they mean by that? That is clearly up to the wind farm developer. If they choose to develop in a remote area then that should not impact on the actual fee they pay to the landowner, or the lessee. My reading of that is that that means: 'Well, it's a long way from the grid so we've got to build a big transmission line, so we're not going to actually pay you anything, or just a token payment for hosting the wind turbine.' It continues:

This fee will take account of the extra costs associated with development in remote areas, and 95 per cent of this fee will be distributed to a pastoral lessee and any other party with an interest in the land, such as, for example, native title holders. An initial amount will be paid during the exploration and construction phases of the project and then an annual amount once the wind farm is operating.

Reading it earlier on, the government will take 5 per cent of the fee for a handling fee, if you like, clip the ticket on the way through. I am interested to know why this could not just be attached to a pastoral lease and the lessee gets the benefit and it is up to the wind farm owner, or proponent, to negotiate whether he wants to offer something to the native title holders and any other interested parties. I do not know why the government has to get involved with, if you like, clipping the ticket on the way through.

Clearly, it would be, I would have thought, no different to a mortgage that a lessee has over their pastoral lease, where they go to the bank. It is a document that they have had with their bank. You would assume that a wind farm developer who has an agreement with somebody who has a privately owned property—not crown land, crown lease, or a pastoral lease, they have an agreement and an arrangement—surely there are some contractual arrangements which would take place between the wind farm developer, or wind farm owner, and the lessee. I am interested to know why we have to have another layer of government, another layer of, if you like, bureaucracy.

The other thing is the 95 per cent—I am sure my colleague mentioned this but I will mention it again—who decides what the ratio is as to who gets what share of the 95 per cent? Clearly, if it is about an inconvenience payment, which it often is in the more closely settled land, then if somebody has, for example, an interest in the land but does not live anywhere near it, does not operate it, does not farm it or graze it, while they might have an interest they are certainly not being inconvenienced by the development of the wind farm.

So, I am interested to know what the break-up is and how that would be determined. It is all very well to say, 'We're going to be fair and reasonable. Everybody gets a little slice of the action,' but if you are a pastoralist and you have a wind farm that causes some concern, whether it is access to water points, whether it is a transmission line, or whether it is a substation, there will be a whole range of developments that may impact on the way that you go about your business and, if you like, run your grazing operation, or your pastoral operation. So, I think it is important that we understand how that is divided up, the way it is determined and why the government has to be involved. Reading further in the minister's second reading explanation, he says:

During this period, no other wind farm developer will be given approval for access to the same portion of a pastoral lease for a period of up to 5½ years in order to protect the developer's investment in the exploration phase.

Why is it 5½ years and not five and not six? It also goes on to say:

During this investigation period, a developer must satisfy the minister after a period of 2½ years that they have developed a plan for a wind farm on the land and are able to fund the completion of that plan. If the minister is satisfied, a further three years for investigations will be granted.

I am just intrigued about the 5½ years, and I would like the minister to give us some clarity as to how they arrived at that particular time frame. I pick up a point the Hon. Mark Parnell raised in relation to the decommissioning and rehabilitation of land. That was certainly an issue that was raised during the select committee as to the end procedure.

We did hear some evidence, I think, where there may have been a suggestion that you could sell the tower to Sims Metal or the scrap people to get rid of all the above-ground infrastructure but that there would be a concrete block left under the soil. With a lot of the ones we saw, the concrete block protruded about a metre above the soil, so I would be interested to know the minister's view on what level of rehabilitation they are talking about and whether that obligation passes on. If it is a 50-year wind farm and it has been sold on to several other owners over that period of time, does that actually still compel the final owner of the property or the asset, and are they liable for the decommissioning and the rehabilitation of the land?

I would also just express some quick concerns. Obviously, these pastoral leases are quite large and a lot of that country is very sparsely settled. At the moment, the statewide DPA has certain setbacks from people's houses, but on some of the flat pastoral country, where we might have properties that are 50, 60, 100 or 200 or 300 square kilometres, has any consideration been given to make sure the setback is of no inconvenience to the neighbours?

I will use the example again where, on the wind farms select committee, we heard evidence about aerial spraying and that if it was 500 metres inside the person's boundary they could still undertake their normal farming practices. Okay, they would still see it but, where we are looking at particularly large properties, I am just wondering whether the minister has any view about the setbacks so that they are, if you like, over the horizon or away from the neighbour's property so there is a significant distance, not just the mandatory distance that we see in the closer settled country. I am interested to know the minister's view there.

Of course, we do have migratory birds, wedge-tailed eagles and a whole range of flora and fauna, but especially the airborne fauna—the birds.

The Hon. M.C. Parnell: Very big flora!

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: Big flora—they have giant trees up there. Certainly, from the bird point of view, and of course the migratory birds, we do have periods of time in our outback when we have inundation from water—Lake Eyre and so forth—where we have huge numbers of birds migrate to the area not on a regular basis. I just am interested to make sure that this particular legislation has taken that into consideration.

I thought the President was not observing us at the moment. Both ministers often use their iPhones for points in question time, and I have asked the South Australian chamber of mines for some comments.

The Hon. I.K. Hunter: I don't have an iPhone.

The Hon. D.W. RIDGWAY: You don't have an iPhone. Well, whatever kind of phone you have—it might be an earphone or nose phone or some sort of phone. Some points have been raised by the chamber of mines, and I will read this email. There may be no content that is a question, but I think it is worth doing it now so that if there is a question in this the minister can address it:

As discussed SACOME is reasonably comfortable with the consultation requirements for wind farms in the amendment bill. However, we would like similar requirements for proponents of solar facilities. For solar, land access cannot be issued under the Pastoral Land Management and Conservation Act, 1989 (PLMC Act). This is because the activity of building a solar facility is not consistent with the objectives of the PLMC Act. Hence the clause relating to resumption of land (Amendment to section 32) is as we understand it transfers the land such that it would be regulated under the Crown Land Management Act,2009 (CLM Act), which is the act under which land access for a solar facility would be granted. Accordingly, we would be seeking amendments to the CLM Act of the nature included as Section 49C in the PLMC Amendment Bill.

We want to ensure there is appropriate consultation and negotiation with resource tenement holders who have a 'property right' where solar facilities are being considered.

That is a question that has been raised by the chamber of mines. I think it is important that we have two different sorts of facilities: obviously, the solar facilities, which take up a bigger footprint, or the bigger ones can, and the wind ones. So, of course the chamber of mines has raised that question.

Also, in relation to the solar facilities, when it comes to water points, land access, stock routes and tracks, I assume that any land that is excised for a solar facility will actually take into consideration the existing land use and the actual pastoralists—some have been there for 100 or 150 years, and that will be taken into consideration if we support this bill and it becomes law. I think it is important to recognise prior landownership and prior land use. While not ruling out any change of land use, it should always be an important consideration going forward. With those few comments, I support the second reading of the bill.

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