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Grain Producers Australia welcomes acknowledgement by Federal Agriculture Minister, Murray Watt, that consultations with farming communities have not been ‘up to scratch’ by companies implementing renewable energy projects and quality of engagement must be improved.

Minister Watt made the comments in an interview with 4RO Rockhampton this week, when asked about land access matters and challenges for companies building wind farms, solar farms and new transmission lines that intersect with food producing farms.

He also said project development needs to be done in a way that ‘respects people’s rights’.

GPA Southern Grower Director, Andrew Weidemann AM, said core social license principles, and sound policies to protect farmers’ interests and maintain productivity, should not be lost in political arguments over renewables and the various merits of different technologies.

Mr Weidemann said GPA policy supported renewable fuels as an opportunity to provide cheaper, reliable and more sustainable alternatives to traditional energy sources, with direct benefits for regional communities – and to incentivise producers commercially, as feedstock suppliers.

“Whilst debates over renewable fuels versus traditional energy sources often get complicated and heavily politicised, some core truths remain – especially social license considerations and the need for meaningful engagement with local communities,” he said.

“Project proponents – be it wind farms, solar panels or transmission lines – must ensure they’re doing the right thing and not trouncing farmers’ property rights in a mad rush to meet deadlines.

“These companies need to ensure they’re engaging fairly, honestly and transparently with the communities who’ll live with the outcomes – long after their executives have returned to the city.

“This engagement needs to be genuine; not ‘consultation’ that’s just tick a box appeasement.”

Mr Weidemann said he also welcomed the Minister’s comments that more work was still needed to improve the engagement companies undertake with farmers.

And to support that trust-building exercise, the government commissioned the Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner to review consultation processes, making a number of recommendations.

“But after so many years of lived experience with mining developments impacting productive farmland and the environment, we already know what’s right and what’s wrong,” he said.

“Companies can’t afford to be racing off to build transmission lines, wind farms or solar farms without first sitting down to make sure communities are on board before they start, not after.

“They can’t turn up at the farm gate with their trucks and earth moving equipment ready to roll, without having first talked to the communities that’ll live with the actual impacts, to properly understand their concerns and include them in their planning processes and decision-making.”

GPA Independent Director, and Leading global sustainability and land management expert, Mitchell Hooke AM, reinforced the importance of meaningful engagement with farmers and communities, to deliver sustainable outcomes.

Mr Hooke said the concepts of ‘free prior informed consent’ and ‘mutual respect’ are fundamental to the experiences of mining companies, in earning and maintaining a social license to operate.

“Prior consultation and meaningful engagement are key social license principles; whether it’s for renewables or to dig up coal or drill for coal seam gas,” he said.

“Better planning, proper engagement and genuine listening are all vital to ensure these projects are sustainable and supported by those who live in the impacted farming communities.

“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. The mining industry’s experiences provide a clear set of guidelines for the renewables industry to follow, to ensure mutually beneficial, sustainable outcomes and genuine regulatory protections for farmers, communities and the environment.”

Mr Weidemann said GPA’s renewable fuels policy will be updated at the GPA Policy Council meeting in Canberra next week, with social license matters central to these discussions, and opportunities for farmers to improve their profitability and sustainability, with new technologies and real incentives.


Mr Hooke is globally recognised for his strategic leadership in public policy advocacy, and in-depth knowledge of commercial practices and operations. His record of achievements spans more than 35 years, serving as a national and international industry leader across the agricultural, food and grocery, and mining industries.

He recently provided important information and content, at a webinar hosted by the Southern Wimmera Renewables Research Association, to help local community members understand potential impacts and broader consequences for their farming and land management practices of a proposed project to build windfarms and transmission lines.


MURRAY WATT: Yeah certainly I think that there’s work to be done to improve the consultation that companies undertake with farmers when it comes to building transmission lines and building wind farms and solar farms. You know, I don’t think that that has always been up to scratch, that kind of consultation. We recently actually commissioned the Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner to do a review of those consultation processes, and he’s put forward a number of recommendations which we’ve agreed to, because I think it is only fair that farmers get a bit more of a say over where these transmission lines go, what the financial return is for them, and I think that’s only fair and just.

I should say, you know, just as there are farmers who have concerns about renewables and transmission lines, I’ve also met plenty of them who are supportive of it because it’s developing new income streams for them. Typically when those transmission lines or wind farms go on farms the company pays the farmer a fee. And I’ve met farmers who are making $100,000 a year-$200,000 a year from hosting those – that sort of infrastructure on their farms. That’s obviously great for their bottom line, and it sort of supports them through difficult times as well when prices are down or droughts are happening, they’ve still got that reliable income. So I think there is a way to do this in a way that respects people’s rights, and that’s what we want to make sure of with these changes around the consultation process.



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