March 14, 2011

Chance to testify

Brendan Gullifer, The Courier, Ballarat 9 March 2011

Three former Waubra residents have been selected to give evidence to the Ballarat hearing of the Senate wind farm inquiry.

The inquiry has received more than 1000 submissions and will sit in Ballarat on March 28.

Noel Dean, along with husband and wife Carl and Sam Stepnell, will testify at the hearing at the University of Ballarat.

Mr Dean commissioned his own noise report after the commencement of the 128-turbine facility in 2009.

The Dean and Stepnell families were forced to move from long-held family farms due to claimed adverse health effects from the wind farm.

“Being asked to testify is a good outcome for the whole community,” Mr Dean said yesterday.

“We’re not the only ones affected. It’s a dreadful situation.”

Mrs Stepnell said she welcomed the opportunity to give evidence.

“It’s extremely important, it means we’re being heard for the first time,” she said.

“People are listening, they recognise there is a problem.”

Waubra Foundation medical director Sarah Laurie has also been asked to give evidence, at the Melbourne hearing on March 29.

In her submission, Dr Laurie highlighted the industry practice of wind farm operators enforcing confidentiality clauses, which prevented residents from speaking publicly about health problems.

“I have direct knowledge of this practice of gag clauses at multiple sites in Australia,” Dr Laurie said.

“The suffering continues without any effective public scrutiny.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for Planning Minister Matthew Guy has denied last week’s announcement of including all houses within two kilometres of turbines in planning applications was an about face.

“The second stage of the implementation of the Coalition’s election commitments including the two-kilometre setback policy (and) staged payment systems of compensation will be included in further amendments to wind farm guidelines,” the spokesman said.

“These amendments will require legislation, the legislation is currently being drafted.”

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