The Nationals have urged the Labor State Government to fix a policy black hole with insurance, for farmers near large-scale solar and renewable energy projects.
The Nationals Member for Northern Victoria Region, Gaelle Broad, said currently farmers neighbouring large renewable projects could be left out of pocket and risk losing everything.
Constituents have recently raised concerns about skyrocketing insurance premiums. They fear that if something happens on their farm that could damage a neighbouring solar farm they would be held liable.
Nationals colleagues Tim McCurdy MP, Member for Ovens Valley and Annabelle Cleeland MP, Member for Euroa, have also been contacted by locals who are concerned for the future of their farms.
“Members of my community have expressed their concerns about local renewable energy projects, particularly about liabilities and insurance challenges,” Ms Cleeland said.
“It is essential that our local farmers are supported as renewable energy projects continue to sprout up around their properties,” Ms Cleeland said.
Ms Broad said if farmers were found to have started a fire with a chainsaw, slasher or grinder and it spread and caused damage – and if they were found to be negligent – they could lose everything.
With current farm insurance anywhere between $10 million and $20 million, some farmers have been told they may need to look overseas to find higher levels of insurance.
“It is clearly not enough when you consider developments like the Meadow Creek Solar Farm, with a proposed value of $750 million, or the Cooba Solar Project, a proposed development that includes 740,000 solar panels in Colbinabbin.
“Some farmers have been told that to obtain the right level of insurance cover they will be facing a $50,000 rise in premiums each year.”
The Australian Energy Infrastructure Commissioner’s 2022 annual report includes sections titled ‘consultation’ and ‘neighbour agreements’. It suggests the solar farm could create a neighbour agreement, which could include reimbursement for increased public liability insurance premiums levied at the neighbour due to the presence of the wind or solar farm. However, most neighbour agreements are voluntary, and initiated by the developer.
Ms Broad said insurance matters were causing a lot of angst across Northern Victoria as plans for renewable energy projects pop up.
“The State Government can’t remain silent on this issue. It’s a policy black hole and a State Government responsibility. They need to address these insurance issues to ensure that farmers are not out of pocket,” Ms Broad said.
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