The renewable energy sector is the latest industry to target prime agricultural land.
Landholders, both opposed and supportive of a proposed wind farm, north of Dalby, faced off at the first public meeting held by operation owners, AGL, at the weekend.
The event quickly descended into a shambolic mess after AGL refused to host a public forum, instead insisting on one-on-one meetings with locals.
At one point AGL representatives refused to answer any questions until the media was out of earshot.
After some journalists informed AGL they would report that the company was banning media from the meetings and multiple complaints by locals, a 45-minute question and answer session with company representatives was begrudgingly held.
More than 80 people gathered at the Cooranga North Community Hall on Saturday to hear from the company, which is seeking government approval for the construction of 115 turbines within a 6km radius of the small township.
For many landholders the weekend meeting was the first time they had met face -to-face with an AGL representative since the company took over the project in 2008, with only previous correspondence being company newsletters and plentiful town rumours.
The $800 million wind farm, called Cooper’s Gap, will affect about 40 properties, with legislative requirements forcing AGL to seek a negotiated written agreement only with those landholders with turbines planned for construction on their properties.
AGL has also refused to consider purchasing any potentially affected properties in the area. However, AGL Power Development Manager Adam Mackett has pledged to meet with all neighbouring property owners in the following month.
The landholders who oppose the construction, who have called themselves the Cooranga North Concerned Citizens (CNCC), claim the noise and health risks from the turbines will diminish the quality of their lives and significantly reduce land values.
Concerned landholders in the Cooranga region, which has many beef and horse properties, believe the stress caused by the large and continuous swinging turbines above their properties will affect calving rates and distress their livestock.
They want the company to not construct any turbines within 3km of a residential dwelling and at least 600m from a neighbouring property boundary.
They have called on the Queensland Government to enforce such a ruling, citing the example of the Victorian Government, which last week reaffirmed a policy commitment where no turbine would be built within 2km of homes without residents’ agreement.
There is currently no legislative requirement on setbacks for turbine construction in Queensland. In a statement to Queensland Country Life, State Environment Minister Kate Jones did not respond to a question on whether the government would introduce minimum setback standards.
Mr Mackett said AGL did not plan to construct any turbines within 1.4km of a home. However, protesters have argued the distance from a boundary fence is “essential” due to the potential impact on livestock and have raised doubts over these claims.
“We do not oppose green energy or the project going ahead; we just don’t want it to have social, health or economic impact on landholders,” CNCC spokesperson Bryan Lyons said.
CNCC member Paul Newman cited a recent report in the AGL newsletter, distributed to landholders, which claimed the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) stated there was “no published scientific evidence to support adverse health affects of wind turbines.”
Mr Newman presented AGL representatives with an email from NHMRC assistant director of emerging issues Heather Bishop who wrote that AGL’s claim had distorted the council’s public statement.
Mr Newman said this “needed an explanation” from the company, which AGL pledge to provide at a later date.
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