November 13, 2010

Issue can divide a community

By Brendan Gullifer, Ballarat Courier, 13 November 2010

Ballarat East MLA Geoff Howard has lived at Waubra for 15 years and said he can see 60 or 70 turbines from his front gate.

“I’ve never noticed any effect from them at all.”

Located 35 kms from Ballarat and with 128 turbines, Waubra is the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere.

Mr Howard, a father of three, said he estimated there were 300 families living in the Waubra region, with only two having moved out due to the wind farm.

“In regard to so-called divisive issues, it’s individuals in the community that make them divisive.”

Mr Howard said he had witnessed local public meetings on wind farms “swamped” by outsiders.

“It made the locals uncomfortable about making contributions to discussions or sharing their views.”

He said he had spoken to lots of people about their concerns but no-one had come to see him under the banner of the Landscape Guardians.

And while not closed to the issue of health concerns, he believed there could be a correlation between those who don’t receive financial benefit from wind farms and health problems.

“I’m not casting aspersions … there’s lots of evidence that it’s anxiety related … it’s certainly real for those people.

“Others I have spoken to say members of their family don’t sleep well at night. Others who are living further away attribute wind farms to various health problems.

“How many hundreds of turbines are there around the world? There is no research from other parts of the world to suggest a strong negative impact in those communities – and those wind turbines have been in place up to 20 years.

“We’ve got to keep monitoring the health effects of wind turbines but the alternative of seeing global warming grow is a huge challenge.”

Ripon MLA Joe Helper has locked horns with the Landscape Guardians on more than one occasion and has met with members of the group individually. Mr Helper said wind farm projects would generate hundreds of new jobs for local families and “hundreds of millions of dollars” in benefits.

“All proposals to government go through a proper, rigorous and extensive process, including community consultation, before decisions are made.

“We are fortunate to live in a democracy in which groups and individuals have every right to speak out against or protest any issue.

“However, it’s important that these concerns are voiced in an appropriate way.”

URL to article: