Concerns regarding the effects of the Macarthur Wind Farm have been raised by residents on properties adjoining the site of the $1 billion project.
Neighbouring woolgrower Annie Gardner has objected to the development for six years and said a lot of neighbours would be “shockingly affected by a flawed project”.
Mrs Gardner said residents in Macarthur might show support for the joint project between AGL and Meridian Energy, but Macarthur was 15 kilometres from the site, while initial planning had turbines located only 70 metres from her fence line and 1.25 kilometres from her residence.
Mrs Gardner, who has been on her property for 30 years, said there were many matters involving the construction of the program that people were not aware of.
“There have been a number of huge issues swept under the carpet by the Government and developers,” she said.
“The wind farm will affect our farming, our health and devalue our property.
“No-one will be able to sell because no-one wants to live next door to a wind farm.”
She also questioned the employment value to the immediate area saying AGL hadn’t given any information regarding how many of the 400 jobs the project was expected to create would go to local people.
AGL power development manager Jeff Trompf disputed the allegations and said the exact number of local people employed by AGL would depend on the skill set of the local community but some farmers near AGL’s other wind farms were now employed by the company.
“A number of farmers near the Hallett Wind Farms have actually completed training and are now turbine technicians,” he said.
Mr Trompf also said the region could expect to benefit from a number of indirect jobs the project would help create and that the 30 full-time staff employed once the wind farm was operational would consist of people either from the town or people who would move to the community and boost the population.
Mrs Gardner said she was also concerned about health impacts of living near turbines after attending meetings with people who lived near other wind farms who had reported experiences of nausea, tinnitus and headaches which they believed were due to low frequency noises emitted by the turbines.
Research released recently by the National Health and Medical Research Centre suggests that these symptoms are actually caused by annoyance rather than the turbine itself, although the concept of annoyance was highly subjective.
The July report says some people have the tendency to experience annoyance from low frequency sounds, which themselves pose no threat to health, but genuine health issues could arise from the stress caused from worrying about the health impacts caused by the turbine.
The report said different people had different reactions to low frequency noises which would provide some explanations for the conflicting statements about sounds created by turbines.
However Mrs Gardner remained adamant that noise would be an issue around the site of the Macarthur Wind Farm as although AGL had reduced the overall number of turbines for the project each turbine was now bigger than originally proposed and had doubled in power capacity from 1.5 MW to 3.0MW.
She said AGL’s announcement that it had reduced the number of turbines was “deceptive” as it had actually increased the overall energy output from the site and noise would inevitably be greater.
Mrs Gardner said the turbines would also affect aerial spraying and aerial fire-fighting on her property, parts of which were very rocky and inaccessible be vehicles.
She received support from Ron Jelbart who owns property adjoining a proposed wind farm site at Penshurst, when he agreed that a wind farm would hinder fire-fighting capabilities.
Mr Jelbart said driving a vehicle over the rocky terrain on his or any property in smoky conditions would be too dangerous for fire-fighters to attempt.
“You only have to hit one stone and that’s it, you’re pinned,” he said.
Mr Jelbart said there could be potentially dire consequences if fire-bombing was not possible on surrounding land.
“On a bad day the effect may never be known as to how devastating it might be to take the plane out of the equation,” he said.
Mr Trompf said he could not speak on behalf of the Penshurst wind farm as it was not an AGL project, but the Macarthur Wind Farm had been through extensive planning provisions which included thoroughly addressing fire safety.
“As part of the permit process we had a thorough fire risk assessment plan which had to be signed off by the CFA the Moyne Shire and the DSE,” he said.
Mr Trompf said vehicular access to properties housing turbines would be upgraded with the construction of new access roads although no such upgrades would occur on neighbouring land.
He added that current farming practices would not be affected by the wind farm but AGL could not predict what future farming practises would be adopted by neighbouring residents.
While opinions and facts remain divided something everyone agrees on is that the wind farm has driven a wedge into the local community with Mrs Gardner saying long-time friends and even family members have found themselves on opposite sides of the debate in recent times.