Thirteen landholders in the Crookwell district are in shock after receiving letters from a wind farm developer giving them three months to sell out or live in the shadow of 73 giant wind turbines.
The situation flows from a Land and Environment Court decision late last year giving the developer, Gullen Range Wind Farm Pty Ltd, the option to decide in the next four years whether to buy non-host properties likely to be adversely affected or reduce the number of turbines.
Epuron responded early this month with letters to the landholders offering to buy their properties.
The proposed Gullen Range wind farm will stretch north to south more than 20 kilometres along a ridge line, starting a few kilometres south of Crookwell.
One of those potentially affected is Humphrey Price Jones, “Glan Aber”, the spokesman for Friends of Crookwell which has campaigned against wind farm development in the district.
His property is on the provisional acquisition list, meaning if at some future time the company has to put lighting on every tower, it will be obliged to make an offer.
He said the situation had sent him and his wife, Jen, into “turmoil”.
“The consequences of this are horrendous,” he said.
“It is forcing people off their land and out of their homes.
“Although it’s not compulsory, in some cases it might as well be.”
He said the nearest turbine to his house would be about 1.5km away.
In its decision the court specifically ruled against a two kilometre buffer between turbines and houses on non-host properties.
“If this is happening to us, the likelihood is it will happen to more and more people unless the incoming government (in Saturday’s NSW election) drastically changes things,” Mr Jones said.
Chairman of a group representing landowners in the affected area, Parkesbourne-Mummel Landscape Guardians Inc, David Brooks, said most people who had received letters were “very upset indeed” about the prospect of being forced to sell.
“If they don’t sell they will be living in a house that the Land and Environment Court thinks is uninhabitable”.
Meanwhile, further west in the Boorowa district, landholders are struggling to deal with the prospect of three major wind farm proposals which have hit the community in quick succession.
If all three go ahead they would result in up to 300 wind turbines – each about 150 metres high – scattered across ridges east of the town.
Epuron has plans for up to 100 turbines across 40 properties at Rye Park and Suzlon Energy and Windlab propose 90 turbines over 25 properties near the township of Rugby.
A third proposal by Wind Prospect emerged about two weeks ago for possibly up to 100 turbines between Rye Park and Boorowa.
Some landholders have raised fears about noise and visual impacts, and say also aerial agriculture operators, who are regularly used in fertiliser spreading, crop spraying and fire fighting in the district, have warned they will impose “no fly” zones within one kilometre of turbines.
However, one farmer who will be hosting wind turbines, Tony Croker, “Willow Dale”, Rugby, has suggested farmers against wind farms are in the minority.
Mr Croker, who is also the Rural Fire Service (RFS) brigade captain at Rugby, dismissed concerns about both the impact of wind turbines on fire fighting and also noise impacts.
He said there was no guarantee fire fighters would receive air support, use of aerial agriculture had greatly diminished, and in any case the decision on whether to fly near wind turbines would be the pilots’.”
A meeting of more than 100 people in Boorowa last Monday week decided to set up a Boorowa Landscape Guardians group to fight the proposal.
Project manager for the Suzlon-Windlab wind farm, Daniel Macdonald, attended, and has hit back at criticism by meeting chairman and local farmer, Charlie Arnott, of his failure to answer questions or address the meeting.
Mr Macdonald said the meeting had been “unsuitable for that kind of dialogue”, and in any case the company had not completed all the necessary studies needed to provide full details.
Simon Davey, project manager for the original proponent of the wind farm Epuron, which still has an involvement, said the company was simply following the process set down by the court, and was happy to work with the community to develop the best project possible.
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