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Foodbowl threat from solar farms

By Country News

A small group of Goulburn Valley farmers has met with Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford to share concerns about the potential impacts of a number of solar farms.

Concerned parties have told Ms Pulford the solar farms had the potential to impact the region’s extensive food production industry.

State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed also attended the meeting and said agriculture must be protected.

In February, Greater Shepparton City Council requested Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne rule on four local solar farm applications.

‘‘Agriculture is at the heart of the Shepparton district economy, but this is an issue that will have significant implications for all food-producing regions across Victoria,’’ Ms Sheed said.

‘‘We welcome renewable energy investment, but it must be located appropriately — and when millions of dollars are being invested in ensuring our irrigation future is sustainable I would argue that prime land on the irrigation backbone is certainly not appropriate.

‘‘It struck me as surprising that there were no guidelines in place already, given the increased interest in renewable energies, but it is pleasing to see the government take heed of my call to address this as a matter of urgency.’’

Ms Sheed said she took the delegation to parliament following a Panels Victoria hearing in May regarding the matter.

‘‘While the Panels Victoria hearing was an appropriate forum for the issues around these developments to be aired, it is often the case that community members do not have the resources or expertise to adequately support their case with technical arguments and supporting research,’’ Ms Sheed said.

‘‘Ultimately, it is the minister who must take into account the panel’s recommendations and any other relevant material and make a decision, and I felt it was important for him to hear directly from farmers who understand the reality on the ground.’’