A proposal to build a windfarm on the Waterloo range west of Glen Innes has pitted neighbour against neighbour, with several Furracabad valley residents who will be affected expressing their opposition at last Thursday’s Glen Innes Severn Council meeting.
Last week’s meeting was the first time council had met since a two-day community information session was held in December by engineering consultants Connell Wagner and developer National Power who are proposing a 27 turbine wind farm on the Waterloo range on the western edge of the Furracabad valley about 12km from Glen Innes.
Of the nine residents present at the meeting opposed to the development, three – Ashley Peake of Cherry Tree Road, Mary Anne Evans of Hill Side Road and Christine Putland of Furracabad Station – said the turbines would dramatically affect their standard of living, and highlighted the lack of consultation from developers about the proposal prior to the December information days.
The residents called for council to develop policy guidelines in terms of how it affected ratepayers.
Chief among concerns were the proximity of turbines to homes; the visual impacts such as the shadow flicker and flashing warning lights; the effect on flora and fauna, interference with telecommunications, land devaluation and health, citing overseas studies that blamed turbines for the constant headaches, depression, insomnia and loss of hearing suffered by those who lived closest to them.
Mary Anne Evans, whose house sits at the base of a hill on which a 130m high turbine is planned, presented studies that claimed wind turbines are ranked in the top three noise polluters and can be heard at least 5km away. She said the noise would be equivalent to a tractor 1km from her house running all day and night.
“We are ordinary people living in an area of peace, serenity and spectacular scenery. We forgo decent roads, lack of town water, garbage collection and other services to live on our hill undisturbed,” Ms Evans said. “I will now be forced to live in an industrial zone rather than the rural zone we always intended to live in.”
The representatives said they were not opposed to sustainable energy production but rather wind farms, which were popular with governments keen to sprout their green credentials but which were overlooking alternate clean energy such as geothermal, green hydro and biomass fuels.
Ms Putland asked if the valley residents were to become victims of decisions made without consultation.
“Are we to be ‘collateral damage’ due to the decision of five landholders (who stand to financially benefit)? We should never have been put in this position,” she said.
In response, Council claimed it did not have a particular stance on the issue as the decision ultimately rests with the NSW Department of Planning, but recognised the need for guidelines to be put in place.
Director of Development and Environmental Services Graham Price is currently reviewing the best practise guidelines and will prepare a report to council for the next council meeting.
“Council does not have particular stance on this issues,” Mayor Steve Toms said. “On a personal level wind farms are positive for sustainable energy as we are shifting towards reducing green house gas emissions. But council are concerned with the individual impact on neighbours and acknowledge their concerns. The subject is emotive some like the proposal and some dislike it, its subjective to how people view the concept.”
Manager for Economic Development and Tourism Wendy Fahey told the Examiner on Tuesday that wind farms can actually attract a niche market keen to look at wind generation, “which can add to the tourism, drive experience”. However she said the possible impact to this district had not been researched.
6 March 2008
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