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Gee calls for wind farm consultation

Member for Orange Andrew Gee has called for more extensive consultation on the proposed wind farms in the region.

Mr Gee said he had received a number of calls from residents in the vicinity of the proposed Uungula wind farm midway between Wellington, Gulgong and Mudgee, complaining there had been insufficient consultation.

The Uungula Wind Farm could comprise up to 300 wind turbines, enough to produce around 1500 gigawatts of energy.

Mr Gee said while he supported the search for suitable alternatives to fossil fuels as a source of power generation, community consultation in the area surrounding any wind farm was vital.

Placing a list of frequently asked questions on a website with answers fell short of community consultation and one-on-one consultation with the owners proposed wind farm sites excluded neighbours who might be affected by noise or visual impact, Mr Gee said.

“Proponents developing wind farms need to be aware that consultation with the communities near their proposed locations and with the relevant local government authorities is essential,” he said.

“Failure to consult all parties on these issues will undoubtedly result in a reaction from people whose lives may be affected by these projects.

“My message to the company developing is ‘start engaging with communities and local councils in a meaningful way’.

“It is what people want and what they expect.”

Wind Prospect CWP head of development Edward Mounsey said the company was currently concentrating on initial wind farm layouts and evaluating a range of grid connection routes.

“This process, to date, has been greatly aided by feedback through our website and through direct approaches from local landowners via the contact details provided on our project website (www.uungulawindfarm.com.au),” he said.

“Once the initial site design options have been explored and internally tested, we will hold a public open day, similar to the one held for the Crudine Ridge Wind Farm in July this year, to further encourage feedback.”

The open day will include large scale displays, including maps of the initial wind farm layouts, photomontages of the proposed project from a range of locations, and other information relating to what had been done and what is still to be done.

Wind Prospect CWP staff members will also be there to answer questions.

Mr Mounsey said a second public open day on the Crudine Ridge Wind Farm south of Pyramul would also be held later this year.

The proposed Crudine Ridge Wind Farm could have up to 106 wind turbines – enough to supply approximately 80,000 average homes across Australia.

Mr Mounsey said feedback from the initial Crudine Ridge Wind farm public open day was overwhelmingly positive, and in line with the responses the company received to its earlier public opinion survey, encouraging it to progress with onsite surveys which will conclude later this year

The public open days on Uungula and Crudine will be advertised through a newsletter to the community, newspaper advertisements and radio interviews.

Mr Gee said the NSW Government was drafting new Wind Farm Planning Guidelines and any company engaged in the development of wind farm enterprises would need to consult with the community.

He said he intended to raise the matter of consultation with the Uungula community with the NSW Minister for Planning and Infrastructure Brad Hazzard.

Mr Gee said he wanted to make sure that proposals received by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure will be subject to a rigorous assessment process.

“That’s what the community expects,” he said.

Potential noise and visual impacts of wind farms on surrounding properties are among the many factors that are to be considered and to this end I urge anyone who has concerns to lodge a submission when a proposal is publicly exhibited.”

Mr Mounsey said people who wanted to contact him about either of the wind farms could do so on 02 4013 4640, or ed.mounsey@wpcwp.com.au, or PO Box 1708, Newcastle, NSW, 2300.