Electricity affordability is a key issue for the wellbeing of families, businesses, and farmers.
Federal, state governments and regulators have devised bold plans to address the issue.
These plans, including the establishment of large renewable zones in regional NSW, will create positive energy outcomes, however they have the potential to also create upheaval.
The lack of true dialogue with the communities impacted by these plans highlights neglect on the part of policy makers.
Federal and NSW governments have committed to establishing multi-billion dollar zones in regional NSW to establish thousands of hectares of solar plants, supported by thousands of kilometres of transmission lines. This is a fait accompli.
This endeavour has not been matched by any meaningful dialogue with affected communities. Rightfully, they are concerned.
Farmers are concerned as to what neighbouring solar plants will do to their land values, how they will impact on business practices and insurances, and whether there will be guarantees for remediation of land fit for agricultural purposes.
Whether these concerns can be allayed or not is irrelevant - governments and regulators have already decided.
Imagine if these renewable zones were not at the back of Dubbo or Wagga, but in Double Bay and Waverley? Would residents in Double Bay welcome the industrialisation of their picturesque suburb? Would they fret about impacts on their property prices? Would governments be as blasé about the need for community dialogue?
NSW Farmers is working with the NSW government and key organisations to host a series of forums in some of these priority areas destined for development.
We have a simple message to governments and regulators: Engage with regional communities now, engage often, and engage meaningfully. We matter.