Region is about to change whether we like it or not

13th Jun 2023

Armidale Regional Council mayor Sam Coupland believes that the release of documents by EnergyCo related to the first phase of the New England Renewable Energy Zone (NE REZ) signals the start of significant change for this region.
He says that these changes will have both positive and negative effects for this community as the 20-year build gets underway.
“The scope of this project is unlike anything we have seen in living memory, however, it is a State Significant Development which means decisions around planning are solely the domain of the State Government,” Mayor Sam Coupland said.
“As a community we can’t hide from the fact that a REZ brings with it some significant challenges for our regions that we will need to manage.”
As Founding Chair of the Coalition of Renewable Energy Mayors (CoREM), Mayor Coupland has been working with other Councils to ensure that local needs are recognised and to help begin to shape each REZ to minimise downsides and leverage potential upsides.
“Whilst the majority of renewable projects will be located outside the Armidale LGA, as the largest city in the REZ, Armidale has the greatest capacity to host the thousands of construction workers and will effectively be the epicentre,” he said
“On the surface that is great news, but it comes with challenges.

“At a local level during the early stages there is likely to be social friction around the location of projects and the permanent changes to our landscape they bring. As projects are approved by the State Government and move to the construction phase we will need to manage accommodation and skills shortages and the additional pressure on community infrastructure.
“The construction phase will likely last many years and provide a significant boost to the local economy. Armidale Regional Council will be exploring post construction opportunities to build on the renewables projects – for example green hydrogen production, recycling, circular economies and so on.
“Opportunities exist to partner with renewables companies to solve mutual problems such as housing supply and road infrastructure as well as utilise our recent acquisition of Oaky Dam as a renewable energy generator.
“Council is working on options to ensure the wave of renewable developments will deliver real multi-generational benefits to the community, not just during the construction phase.