The New South Wales agriculture minister Adam Marshall has described comments by fellow National Barnaby Joyce opposing the state government’s plan to build a renewable energy zone in the New England region as “prehistoric”.
Joyce said last month he would lobby against the New England renewable energy zone – one of five included in landmark legislation that passed state parliament last month – claiming it would turn the electorate “into a sea of wind farms”.
Marshall, the Nationals MP for the Northern Tablelands, said in The Land newspaper that the criticism of the state’s multi-billion dollar plan for new renewable energy zones in regional NSW was “banal and binary and prehistoric”.
The state parliament passed the government’s energy bill in November after a mammoth debate and attempts by One Nation MP Mark Latham to block the legislation by moving hundreds of procedural amendments.
The NSW environment minister, Matt Kean, has promised the most ambitious energy plan in the country, with the government to underwrite the private sector in building 12 gigawatts of solar and wind – roughly as much clean energy as is already in the national grid – and two gigawatts of energy storage.
Marshall said Joyce should not be opposing investment in regional NSW.
“It’s irresponsible as an MP to oppose a project that actually has the support and acceptance of the community, like the New England Solar Farm outside Uralla,” he said.
“[It’s] the largest in Australia, and it has the support of the community. We’re talking about billions of dollars of investment. We’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of jobs. Why would you oppose that if the community supports it?”
The NSW government’s plan is for the new clean energy infrastructure to be in place by the time the state’s increasingly unreliable coal-fired power plants close. Four are scheduled to shut over the next five years.
Kean has said the plan will drive at least $32bn in investment, lower electricity costs, create regional jobs and put NSW in a position to become a “clean energy superpower”.
Several federal MPs have raised concerns about the NSW scheme, which was backed by the Coalition, Labor, the Greens and other crossbenchers.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, last week said he had spoken to the premier, Gladys Berejiklian, and the federal energy and emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, was due to meet with Kean about it late last week.