Tableland farmers are furious to discover the proposed Mt Emerald Wind Farm will limit aerial spraying of their crops up to 5km from the site.
The application for 75 industrial turbines was lodged with the Tablelands Regional Council last month, but developers RATCH Australia and Port Bajool took advantage of a legal loophole which means that local farmers were not informed and can‟t object.
Tablelands Wind Turbine Action spokesperson Steve Lavis said he started alerting neighbouring farmers last week after finding a reference in the developer‟s application to agricultural spraying restrictions up to 5km downwind due to turbulence in the wake of the turbine rotors.
“We have coastal banana farmers who are moving up here after being hit by Cylcones Larry and Yasi,” he said. “They are making large investments and employ locals and backpackers – which is good for the Tablelands economy.
“Their first reaction is shock that they haven‟t been told about this, and their second reaction is anger.
“They have legislative requirements to control infestations in banana crops and often there are only small windows when they can spray. In the wet season, the only option is aerial spraying.”
Mr Lavis said the report glossed over the issue by stating that aerial spraying is normally conducted in very light wind conditions when the turbines are unlikely to operate.
“However, it‟s clear from the developer‟s own noise report that the turbine site on the mountain is in a different „wind field‟ to the farmed valley floor. In other words, it‟s likely that the turbines would be operating when it‟s calm in the valley below.”
Mr Lavis said local and state planning laws were not designed to assess industrial wind farms so the developers don‟t require the usual advertisements, public notification and objection periods.
Attempts to introduce local planning laws to assess the wind farm failed last month when the developers lodged their application before the Queensland Government could approve the laws.
Atherton Tablelands agricultural pilot Mark McDonald said he was stunned there were no local laws to protect existing agri-businesses from large industrial wind farms, when they had caused major issues in other areas of Australia.
“Our industry opposes all wind farm developments in areas of agricultural production,” Mr McDonald said. “The experience elsewhere has been that the costs of wind farm development are externalized onto other sectors.
“Our industry is calling for a moratorium on wind farms until a national policy on wind farms is established.”
Despite Mr McDonald‟s phone calls and letters highlighting the developer’s failure to address agricultural issues, last week the majority of Tableland Councillors voted against an independent review of the wind farm application.
This was despite Deputy Mayor Chris Adams‟ attempt for the review to include recommendations of a recent Senate Inquiry into wind farms, and the protection of lifestyle and farming practices on the Tablelands.
Mr Lavis said the Council is leaving itself open for legal action if they don’t have the developer’s reports and other possible impacts properly investigated.
“Aerial spraying is just one issue, what other potential impacts have not been considered by the developers? There are no opportunities for public consultation or objection, so the Council obviously needs independent, expert opinions to ensure they make the right decision.
“Farmers have made it very clear to me that if the wind farm goes ahead and restrictions affect their farming operations, they will be seeking compensation from both the wind farm developers and the Council,” he said. “We’re concerned they are jeopardizing our agricultural growth into the future.”
Steve Lavis: 0418 299 900
Mark McDonald (Agricultural pilot): 0408 175 540
Ashley Flegler (Farmer): 0417 796 490
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