Our trip to FarmFest: regional renewables, and how environmentalists and farmers share common goals

When Ahri, coordinator at Darling Downs Environment Council, suggested we run a joint stall at FarmFest, Australia’s biggest agricultural expo, I wasn’t sure how busy we’d be. Would anyone want to talk to us about renewable energy?

But after a very busy 3 days outside Toowoomba, it was clear: everyone we talked to wants to protect their community and their land and create a cleaner future for coming generations. It’s increasingly obvious to many farmers that climate change is a major threat to that and we need to take action. And almost everyone we talked to agreed that renewable energy will play an important part in doing that.

But regional communities are also in the front row, watching how renewable energy projects are being done in Australia and it’s not always pretty.

We heard stories of towns divided over renewable projects, fueled by companies not being transparent or consistent in the information they provide, particularly around local jobs and benefits. We heard concerns about the amount of materials going into building big infrastructure, and how these were going to be decommissioned. Above all, we heard concerns about the impact of renewable energy on agricultural land.

We need to be doing better. Renewable energy is the best hope we have to limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees, but without respecting regional communities and the environment, we won’t achieve the future we want.

Queensland, and Australia’s, planning frameworks and nature protection laws are not working to stop any form of development from impacting our biodiversity. We’re working with groups around the country to keep up the pressure on the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act  to deliver the improvements that were promised at the 2022 election.

We're also trying to build pressure on the Queensland Government to accelerate their planning reforms. The first step is releasing the update of State Code 23, which assesses wind projects in Queensland. Join our call here.

Working together is the best hope we have of achieving the common goals for the future that we found at FarmFest, where regional communities have a stable economic future and a thriving environment.