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Turbine torment

Newly married, expecting their first child, and living in their dream home. These should be the most exciting days of the Price-Jones’ lives. Instead, they’re filled with worry, fear and uncertainty.

It took 15 years of hard work to build their new home in the countryside outside Crookwell, and less than three years for that dream to be blown away by the Gullen Range wind farm development. Gareth Price-Jones and his wife Shondelle scraped and saved for 15 years living in a “shoebox” in town to get enough money together to purchase their 40-acre property located approximately 10 kilometres south of Crookwell.

The land they purchased belonged to Gareth’s father, Humphrey Price-Jones, who sold them a chunk of his larger property on which to build a family home and farm cattle.

But after the Gullen Range wind farm was approved under Part 3A of the NSW Planning Act last year, huge, 100-metre tall wind turbines will soon dwarf the couple’s new house. It’s an agonising decision.

Do they stay in the home they’ve put so much hard work into establishing, and live with the consequences of having two huge wind turbines within a kilometre of their house, as well as seeing their property value slashed by half?

Or do they accept the pre-turbine market price on offer from the company building the Gullen Range wind farm – Epuron Australia – and sell up?

To compound the decision, even further, Shondelle is six-months pregnant with their first child. It’s a stressful time to say the least, and the only thing the Price-Joneses know about the future is that they want to stay in their house.

“We don’t want to go at all – there’s absolutely no way,” Mr Price-Jones told the Post.

“This is our dream house. This is the great Australian dream basically. We rented for the best part of 15 years in a shoebox, and saved and scraped to build this house.”

The couple received a letter last month informing them that the NSW Land and Environment Court had ruled that Epuron be required to purchase their property for its pre-turbine price due to the large, adverse affect of the turbines on their property.

The couple can choose to stay if they like and live with the turbines, but they would have to accept the subsequent plunge in property value and put up with any noise or health complaints caused by the turbines.

Mr Price-Jones said they were between “a rock and a hard place”, and that the pre-turbine market price wouldn’t come close to compensating them for establishing the once bare land into a functional home and farm. “This was just a bare paddock before.

We stretched ourselves and built the biggest, best house we possibly could so that we wouldn’t have to do anything to it again – no extensions or anything else-obviously with a view to stay here forever,” he said.

“If they bought it for market price, Shondelle and I would be down literally hundreds of thousands of dollars. We had bank loans and everything else to build the house. We put in roads, and tracks and connected the power. There’s just no way that on market value we could turnaround and do the same thing somewhere else.

“And our land would be devalued by half, so if we chose to stay here and see how it goes- and then we feel some adverse health effectsthen we can’t get out: we’re stuck here. We’d have to virtually give our place away. So there’s not much choice. It’s either tough it out, or sell up. It’s a no win situation,” he said.

The Gullen Range Wind Farm was approved under Part 3A of the Planning Act, which gave sole development approval to the NSW Planning Minister for ‘state significant’ developments.

While the new O’Farrell Government put an immediate halt to Part 3A development submissions on Monday morning, it’s come too late for the Price-Joneses, as the Gullen Range wind farm was approved late last year.

Short of some last minute State Government intervention-their local member Katrina Hodgkinson has been vocal in calling for a moratorium on all wind farm developments in NSW and is now a cabinet minister-the Price-Joneses will have the bitter memory of having achieved the Australian dream, only to lose it again within three years.

Company response

THE Gullen Range development meets all state planning criteria, according to Epuron. Project manager Matt Kelly said the State Planning Minister approved the wind farm “on merit” after a thorough environmental assessment.

“The (Land and Environment) court considered, in detail, the impacts from potential noise and visual on nearby residents (and found) … no basis for refusing or modifying the wind farm,” he said. “All nearby residences complied with noise criteria.

“Notwithstanding the compliance at nearby residences, the court however included an acquisition process to give specific landowners an option to sell should the proponent proceed with…nearby turbines.”

For a related story on further wind farms proposed for Crookwell, and the related editorial, please see the print edition of Friday’s Goulburn Post.