Olive Yates: Green bank boss called hypocrite for opposing NSW wind farms
A former boss of the government-owned 'green bank' which funds renewable energy projects has been branded a 'hypocrite' after he savaged proposals for an massive offshore near his holiday home. Oliver Yates, who ran the Clean Energy Finance Corporation from 2012 to 2017, was personally responsible for ensuring Australia's first offshore wind farm - the Star of the South - progressed to approval stage. But he has now publicly criticised the proposed ocean site for wind turbines close to his property on the Central Coast, questioning whether the Australian people are being 'conned' by developers who are 'acting like fossil fuel companies'. His intervention has prompted accusations of 'NIMBYism', with commentator and renewable energy critic Prue MacSween branding his stance 'total hypocrisy'. 'I find it really amusing to see how people like him have got every excuse under the sun to claim they are not a NIMBY,' she said. 'But in the cold heart light of day when they are faced with the fact that it could invade their space and upset their cosy little life... It's just a joke.' She added: 'He's now got reality biting and he's not happy about it.' But Mr Yates Mr Yates, who renounced the Liberal Party before standing unsuccessfully as an independent in the Melbourne seat of Kooyong at the 2019 federal election, told Daily Mail Australia his main issue was about a lack of community consultation after submissions closed last month. 'I am a massive supporter of renewables but have always been aware that the financial benefit a developer can make from a project can impact their ethics just like any other company,' he said. But the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water said the 60-day consultation period led to almost 2,000 submission which are now being considered. Mr Yates further argued that 'not all wind farms are the same' and said that the proposed sites could potentially impact whale migration routes. He also took issue with the impact the turbines will have on the as-yet-unspoiled views along the coast. 'To be efficient these turbines will need to be as high as the tallest building in Melbourne or Sydney and therefore they will have a visual impact,' he said. 'Australia is different to Denmark, we love our beaches and they are part of our identity and therefore assets that impact the visuals are an issue.' Mr Yates, who is a non-executive director on the Smart Energy Council, suggested the consultation could benefit from a visual representation of what the site would look like. 'They could (...) get a boat and put a tower or mast on it and drive it around day and night for a few days with a light, as the turbines will have light, so the locals get the idea what is contemplated,' he said. Sharing an image of a sunrise over the east coast of Australia on Twitter last week, Mr Yates bemoaned that the scene would be 'plastered with offshore wind turbines but residents not consulted'. 'For 8 months of the year the sun will rise into a sea of turbines...' he wrote. 'When solar and batteries will continue their cost decline making them white elephants. They will impact the coast and whale migration routes for decades.' Some users accused him of NIMBYism, but Mr Yates, a senior executive at Macquarie Bank for more than 20 years, insisted he was still in favour of renewable projects. 'I want renewables but ones that won't kill whales,' he said. 'Ones that are not a visual blight and the one that is cheaper... that will be solar and batteries.' He added: 'It is a false assumption to say all renewables are good. All fossils are bad but we need to select the technology that is the cheapest, the fastest to build and least additional damage.' He also asked: 'Does Australia really need them or are we being conned as people just want to build and profit from them? We have plenty of land for solar and wind. Sodium batteries are on the way making it cheap.' Mr Yates left the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) in 2017. Some in the Coalition government derided the CEFC as 'Bob Brown's bank' because it could lend as much as $10billion to renewable projects. Former prime minister Tony Abbott tried shut it down during his time in power but only succeeded in securing funding cuts. Mr Yates resigned from the Liberal party in disgust after witnessing Scott Morrison wave a lump of coal in parliament. 'Environmentally it's like waving asbestos,' . 'If this is the Liberal party, then it has no place for me. I can't quite explain what has happened but the Liberal party's culture is sick.' The Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water closed its consultation on its Hunter Offshore Renewable Energy Area last month. The zone, which extends from Port Stephens to Norah Head, 10km off the NSW coast, could see turbines standing 250m above sea level. But the Central Coast Council has called for more information and community consultation on how it will impact the environment and views. Simon Currie is the founder of Energy Estate the developer of the ongoing Hunter-Central Coast Offshore Energy project - which partly overlaps with the government's proposed site. But in his submission to the recent consultation, Mr Currie strongly emphasised that the government's proposed zone was too close to the shore. 'You can't save every tree and every view to save the world,' he said. 'The wind farms in the Hunter-Central Coast region will sit out well beyond the moored coal fleet. Can I say you will never see them? No. Do they need to be at least 18-20ks out? For sure.' Mr Currie said his company took the potential threat to whales and other marine life 'very seriously'. 'As the waters get deep quickly off NSW we will need to use floating technology, which means anchoring to the sea bed rather than driving monopiles into the sea bed,' he said. 'However, it isn't just the infrastructure which needs to be considered but the impact of development activities such as seismic surveys.' A spokesperson for the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water said 'the Albanese Government is working to unlock renewable energy jobs, energy security and job security through a new offshore wind industry'. 'The Federal Government hosted community information sessions at Wamberal and Doyalson in the south, Swansea, Newcastle, Bar Beach, and Nelson Bay and Hawks Nest to the north to ensure genuine engagement with all stakeholders on the proposed offshore wind zone. 'The 60-day consultation period led to 1916 submissions which are now being considered before declaring a final offshore wind zone. 'During the consultation and in submissions, the community highlighted support for job opportunities, investment in local manufacturing in the region and the need for more affordable energy. 'As well as issues around how marine life could be impacted by future infrastructure development and the visibility of turbines from the coast.'