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Wind Turbines: Parliamentary Debate, Australia 

Author:  | Australia, Contracts, Health, Regulations

Debate resumed on the motion by Mrs Moylan:

That this House:

(1) recognises the importance of clean energy generation technologies in Australia’s current and future energy mix;

(2) acknowledges the exponential growth of wind power across Australia;

(3) appreciates that prudent planning policies are key to ensuring new infrastructure development does not adversely impact upon the social fabric of communities;

(4) notes that:

   (a) the Environment Protection and Heritage Council has decided to cease further development of the National Wind Farm Development Guidelines;

   (b) there is significant anecdotal evidence supporting concern about the health and associated social effects of wind farms which remain unresolved; and

   (c) the Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee’s report, The Social and Economic Impact of Rural Wind Farms has, as a matter of priority, called for adequately resourced studies into the possible impact that wind farms have on health;

(5) recognises that the National Health and Medical Research Council’s rapid review into Wind Turbines and Health is only a cursory compilation of literature on the topic and not an in depth study and should not be principally relied upon to inform planning guidelines;

(6) calls on the Government to urgently commence full in-depth studies into the potential health effects of wind turbines, especially low-frequency infrasound;

(7) requests that the Government fully investigate international best practice in planning policies regarding wind farms and, in conjunction with State governments, publish comprehensive updated guidelines;

(8) calls on State, Territory and local government authorities to adopt cautious planning policies for wind farms and in the interim provide adequate buffer zones and not locate wind farms near towns, residential zoned areas, farm buildings and workplaces; and

(9) calls for approval processes to require wind farm developers to indemnify against potential health issues arising from infrasound before development approval is granted.

Mrs MOYLAN (Pearce): … Wind farms are decades old; they are not new. But in modern times the magnitude and the proliferation have grown exponentially. A single wind farm can require tens of thousands of hectares of land, housing hundreds of turbines as tall as the Sydney Harbour Bridge. A single project may amount to a billion-dollar investment. Despite the fact that wind power projects are set to quadruple over the next 30 years under the government’s clean energy package, there are no nationally consistent policies or laws governing their development. Planning decisions taken by state governments vary and may involve legislation that uses an arbitrary rule in relation to proximity to dwellings and workplaces. They do not necessarily take into account the geography or the topographical features of a landscape that wind farms will be located in. In Western Australia, for example, there is no legislation enforcing development plans~just guidelines loosely developed with consideration to the rapid review undertaken by the federal government.

In any jurisdiction in the country, stringent planning policies apply to everything from a backyard shed, or indeed a fence, to an airport. Just ask any developer. Yet planning policies for wind farms are approached on an ad hoc basis, informed by cursory investigations into concerns that in some cases are tearing communities apart, particularly rural communities, and causing many people to vacate their homes. The increased size o f turbines and the increased amount of land utilised for the farms are growing to mammoth proportions. Therefore, it seems fundamental that we need proper planning procedure to ensure that the community anxiety is addressed and that the best outcome is achieved for all stakeholders.

I think that we should work on the basis that we should do no harm with this policy. Although wind power is a clean technology, that does not mean that it has no environmental impact. A number of people Jiving near to wind farms have reported a myriad of health issues. The low-frequency noise and infrasound produced by wind turbines has been identified as a potential cause of some of these problems. The science behind infrasound is quite detailed and requires a thorough examination. …

Mr SCHULTZ (Hume): It is a shame that I will not have more time to expose the great fraud on the Australian people that is the wind turbine industry. Communities in proximity to wind turbine complexes are experiencing health and noise impacts that interfere with their lives. They did not experience these issues before the turbines came online. I have received complaints from my constituents that confirm similar experiences at other sites. It appears that noise frequencies occur inside houses, which some people hear and others do not hear. Similarly, it appears from testing that there are low frequencies in houses that are below the threshold of hearing that can generate effects on people, giving rise to headaches and nausea. There is no transparency in relation to noise testing. It is all in-house by the wind operators and nothing is released in the public domain. The wind turbine industry says there are no problems but there are cracks appearing in this position. A number of wind turbine operators are now buying houses when there is proof of a noise issue even when they say there is no problem. There are proposals for hundreds of turbines to be installed and we still do not have the health and noise studies nominated in the Senate inquiry. It is foolish to proceed with more turbines on the problems with the current ones simp1y have not been resolved.

Rural communities believe they are being discriminated against by the provision of wind farms producing excessive noise. They have every reason to believe this when you investigate the conduct of the New South Wales planning department in their lack of due diligence and accountability in the noise compliance assessment process. That the New South Wales Department of Planning is clearly complicit in also hiding the truth from rural communities can be seen from this noise compliance assessment document of the Capital Wind Farm which has had 80 per cent of the data removed prior to the document being released under a freedom of information request. …

Mr MATHESON (Macarthur): … While it is important that we explore and pursue cleaner energy solutions, little research has been conducted into the detrimental health and social effects of wind turbines on nearby populations. People living near wind turbines report a range of symptoms: chronic sleep deprivation, headaches, nausea, increased stress and what Dr Nina Pierpont MD has coined ‘wind turbine syndrome’. Wind turbine syndrome is a recently diagnosed illness mainly because wind turbines are a relatively new technology. This syndrome is believed to be caused by ultra–low frequency noises known as ‘infrasound’ generated by turbines moving through the air. Many within the wind industry construe wind turbine syndrome as a fabricated illness; however, people living near wind turbines all over the world are reporting a uniform set of symptoms.

As the body of evidence supporting the detrimental health effects of wind turbines is still largely anecdotal, the government must as a matter of urgency commence full in-depth studies into the potential health effects of wind turbines, especially low-frequency infrasound. Additionally, the government must fully investigate international best practice in planning policies regarding wind farms, and publish comprehensive updated guidelines. As a nation we are investing billions of dollars in wind energy, which is expected to continue over the coming decades. It is incredibly important that our planning policies ensure that new developments do not adversely impact on the health of our communities. Many of these health concerns have not been investigated. Nor have there been any in-depth studies into the potential health effects of wind turbines, especially low-frequency infrasound. It is poor policy to allow wind farms to be constructed without proper planning guidelines to protect our rural and regional populations.

The Senate Community Affairs References Committee report The Social and Economic Impact of Rural Wind Farms has called for adequately resourced studies into the possible impact wind farms have on health as a matter of priority. The government has failed to implement any of these recommendations. …

Federation Chamber
Wind Turbines
Monday, 19 March 2012

Download original document: “Wind Farm – Moylan PMM, Hansard 19th March 2012

This material is the work of the author(s) indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this material resides with the author(s). As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Queries e-mail.

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