A “flawed” community consultation process is one of the main issues of concern to local residents who are opposed to the $390 million development of a wind farm at Rugby.
Two community meetings have been held over the past nine days in Boorowa concerning the wind farm project, both of which served different purposes but still had the same issues of concern.
Opinion has been divided in the community with bushfire risks and health hazards being argued against job creation and boosts to the local economy.
Boorowa is fast becoming a wind farm hotspot with another two wind farms being proposed in the local area by different companies.
The first meeting was a community information session at the Recreation Club last Tuesday night, hosted by Suzlon Energy and Windlab, the companies behind the Rugby Wind Farm project.
The second was a community meeting at the Ex-Services Club on Monday night organised by the Boorowa District Landscape Group (BDLG), which attracted more than 100 people including Burrinjuck MP Katrina Hodgkinson.
Windlab and Suzlon representatives were in attendance at the meeting but declined to speak.
Last Tuesday’s information session was dubbed a chance to “meet the team to get the latest project information”, but it descended into a heated discussion when almost 20 opponents of the plan openly voiced their opinions and questioned why there was secrecy surrounding the project.
The BDLG, lead by Charlie Arnott, disagreed with the company’s style of one-on-one interaction and demanded there be a group consultation so no one was confused with the project information and they could listen to each others questions.
“The timeframe for community consultation is ridiculous…the public consultation is absolutely flawed,” Mr Arnott said.
They also wanted to know why individual maps showing the proposed development had not been made available.
Windlab’s attempts to explain they had run newspaper and radio ads as well as conducting letter box-drops in the local area and discussion with landholders as part of their community consultation process, drew criticism from residents who said they knew nothing of where the proposed development was going and have only found out minor details from neighbours.
At one stage, Suzlon representative Mike Bagot had to leave the meeting.
Residents also raised concerns that the wind farm will pose a bushfire risk and a health hazard, create visual pollution and be noisy and felt their questions had been left unanswered by Suzlon and Windlab.
But Rugby Wind Farm project manager Daniel MacDonald said they have been encouraged by the strong level of community interest and welcome any feedback from the community.
“We are encouraged at the strong level of community interest in renewable energy,” Mr MacDonald said.
“We know people want green energy, but that we need to be rigorous in planning wind farms so they deliver maximum benefit to the community with minimal impact. “We are excited about this project as it will create up to 120 jobs during construction, 20 full-time jobs when operational, and produce enough clean energy every year to power an equivalent of 180,000 homes.
“As we get the results of detailed planning studies, we will share this information with the community.
“We welcome your interest and feedback.”
Paul and Lyn Magee, “Wahroonga” Rugby, also attended last Tuesday’s meeting but are in favour of the development as they will have wind farms on their property and see the proposal as great thing for the town and support jobs “that have been drifting away”.
“It is a major project that will create numerous jobs in town in engineering, transport, building contractors, earthworks and ongoing jobs and training in world wide careers as this is a world wide company,” Mr Magee said.
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