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NSW not sold on wind

While Julia Gillard spruiked the benefits of wind-farm technology in NSW yesterday, state government MPs were feeling the heat from residents who stridently oppose them.

The Prime Minister was in Gunning to visit a wind-farm development as part of the federal government’s $10 billion investment in the greater use of renewable energy.

She said as the global economy moved towards cleaner energy sources, she did not want new industry job opportunities lost to other countries.

Ms Gillard said she was ”always prepared to be guided by the science” when it came to addressing community concerns about possible health risks.

The state government is considering tighter restrictions on the development of wind farms in response to community concerns about noise and possible health risks. Those concerns have been addressed to the Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard, and the Primary Industries Minister, Katrina Hodgkinson, in whose electorate wind farms are raising complaints.

The president of the NSW Landscape Guardians, Humphrey Price-Jones, who lives near Crookwell and the site of a planned wind turbine, has lobbied the government to suspend all development applications for wind farms until any noise-related health risks are assessed.

In response to a question on notice from the upper house MP Walt Secord, the government revealed it was preparing wind-farm planning guidelines.

The provisions would also apply to wind-farm applications within three nautical miles of the NSW coast.

Mr Secord said the opposition supported plans to promote renewable energy, ”but there has to be comprehensive community consultation and debate”.

”We are talking about wind farms dotted along our coastline within less than six-kilometre zones of the beaches and shores,” Mr Secord said.

”The community has a right to know what the O’Farrell government is planning to do … just imagine standing on the top of the Royal National Park or the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk and seeing dozens of these wind farms along our coast.”

Mr Hazzard said the former government had given ad hoc approval to wind-farm developments. He said the aim of the protocols was ”to see if there are some practical guidelines that can address residents’ concerns, but still give a leg-up to what should be a flourishing industry”.

”Alternative energy sources are clearly a major component of any government’s future energy plans,” Mr Hazzard said.

Mr Hazzard said coal had a ”major future in the provision of energy in NSW”, despite the carbon-tax initiative.

”We are also looking at getting that balance right,” he said.