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Bitter blow to the land

Rural Australians are concerned about the “imposition” of wind farms, submissions to a Senate inquiry claim.

The “imposition” is leading to an increased sense of isolation, property devaluation and creating mental and physical risks for residents, claim the submissions.

A Senate committee is due to report on the social and economic impacts of rural wind farms in June – instead of an earlier deadline of today – after assessing 900-plus submissions.

Local submissions reflect the deep divide among communities across the state, which has 51 per cent of the nation’s wind capacity, a number of projects in the pipeline and a government keen to fast-track investment in the sector.

Residents of Beetaloo Valley in the Flinders Ranges, including Vicky Mitchell, have separately raised concerns about the decline in property prices and “decreased quality of life through noise pollution” if Origin Energy’s proposed Collaby Hill wind farm is allowed to progress.

“The devaluation of our property … will have a huge effect on us when we are due to retire, and as we get older, will need to relocate depending on how our health goes,” said Ms Mitchell, who is in her 60s.

With residents forced to take sides in the renewable energy debate, usually close-knit communities were getting more isolated, said Heather Joy Flavel.

Northern SA resident Tania Neville said there was a 30-50 per cent decrease in land values with a local Elders real estate agent saying turbines on or near a property had the same effect “as piggeries, high voltage power lines, sewerage plants and rubbish tips”.

Eight Mile Creek grandmother Lorna Gilmore, who lives near Acciona’s proposed Allendale Wind Farm site, said it was worrying to lose value on their investment after having “worked our farm for over 30 years and survived all the ups and downs”.

Some believe wind farms pose a risk of bushfire due to “vast quantities of flammable gear oil” used by the wind turbines. At least three fire incidents had been reported at existing wind farms since 2006 – at Star Fish Hill, Cathedral Rocks and Lake Bonney.

Supportive submissions – such as those from renewable industry body Clean Energy Council, AGL and Keyneton residents – say Australia’s planning guidelines are already stringent and call for the need to embrace wind as a sustainable form of renewable energy that also lends a boost to local economies.