A community meeting arranged by Suntop’s farming community has been hailed as a ‘great success’ after nearly 80 individuals turned out to discuss the proposed plans for solar farms in the area.
The residents gathered at Welllington’s Civic Centre to hear from each other, as well as representatives from the company behind the planned solar farms, Photon Energy.
The meeting was scheduled by farmers from the Suntop area like Sam Frogley after what they saw as a lack of proper consultation with local residents concerned about the plans.
“The wider community has not had any consultation from Photon, so I am glad that we were able to get the word out there,” Mr Frogley said.
Mr Frogley was also left frustrated by a lack of substantive answers in response to the concerns raised, but was glad to see so many community members willing to ask questions.
“We didn’t really get any substantive answers, but it was great to hear so many relevant concerns raised.”
While community members have previously expressed concerns about the loss of arable land due to the construction, concerns raised at the meeting extended to the community’s responsibility as rural fire service volunteers in the event of a fire and the potential damage to roads due to extra traffic.
“Fires was definitely a big one,” Mr Frogley said. “As RFS volunteers, will we be expected to go in and fight an electrical fire?
“The extra traffic on the roads, which will include up to 40 B-Doubles on the Renshaw-McGirr Way and Suntop Road daily for two years, was also a big problem. I think everyone that was there agreed that these roads are just not suitable for that amount of traffic.”
Throughout the evening’s proceedings, it was stressed that the ultimate decision regarding the future of the proposed solar farm projects would come down to the state government and that anyone wishing to have their views heard should make a submission to the state government’s Department of Planning and Environment.
“It is imperative to let the State Government know your thoughts,” Mr Frogley said. “At the end of the day, they’re the ones who will make the final decision.”
Photon Energy were contacted but have not yet responded to requests for comment.