In early 2010, Acciona proposed a 47 turbine wind farm near a number of properties owned by my family adjacent to Eight Mile Creek in the South East of SA.
Our family objected to the wind farm proposal. Despite those objections, the District Council of Grant approved the application. My family and I then appealed that decision to the ERD Court.
The ERD Court heard a very lengthy appeal in relation to the wind farm. The hearing occupied some 13 days. My family called a lot of technical expert evidence including from a consultant planner, an acoustic engineer, a landscape architect and from a number of lay witnesses who had had experience with wind farms. This included two witnesses from Victoria who lived near wind farms who were adversely affected by the wind farms. Indeed, one of the witnesses gave evidence on two separate occasions. Those lay witnesses gave evidence regarding what it is like to live about a kilometre away from turbines and in particular the health impacts that they were suffering residing near to a wind farm.
After hearing the appeal, the ERD Court allowed our appeal and quashed the decision of the Council. It found that the proposed wind farm would have a significant adverse impact on the amenity of the area within which it was proposed.
There can be little doubt that the wind farm would be a visual blight given the very high quality landscape and aesthetic qualities of the area within which the wind farm was proposed. In that regard, the Court completely rejected the approach taken by Acciona’s experts on the visual amenity.
The day after the ERD Court announced its decision, the then Premier mentioned the matter in Parliament. It was of concern to me that the matter was mentioned in Parliament as I believe it indicated that the Premier was looking at ways to “overcome” the effect of the ERD Court decision.
Shortly thereafter, Acciona also lodged an appeal to the Full Supreme Court. Acciona had not been active in seeking to prosecute the appeal before the Full Court.
That lack of action by Acciona caused me some additional concern. I believe something was happening behind closed doors. Not surprisingly on 19 October 2011, the day before then Premier Rann completed his term as Premier, the Government gazetted a State wide Development Plan Amendment dealing with wind farms. The effect of the DPA was to introduce new policies throughout many council areas including in the area of the District Council of Grant.
The effect of the DPA will be most unfortunate and indeed catastrophic as far as I am concerned. It seeks to treat certain wind farms as a category 2 development meaning that any persons would not have a right of appeal in the event that the wind farm was approved. Further, the approach taken by the DPA is to seek to “manage the visual impact” of a wind farm by seeking to site a wind farm at least 1km away from a dwelling not associated with the wind farm and the effect of the DPA is to therefore seek to deem such a suitable visual outcome.
The approach taken by the DPA is extraordinary. Further in the circumstances of my matter, it runs completely contrary to the expert finding of the specialist ERD Court that the wind farm would have substantial visual impact on the landscape qualities of the area within which it is proposed.
It is not the role of the Development Plan to seek to simply deem a wind farm to have an appropriate visual impact simply because it is sited 1km from a dwelling. Further that approach does not recognise that there are a range of tower heights. Some wind farms can be established on towers of only 60m yet others are on towers of more than 100m in height yet the effect of the DPA is to treat them as having the same impact which is appropriately managed provided that the tower is 1km away from a dwelling. That is a nonsensical approach. Photos tendered in the ERD Court case taken of turbines about 1km away also demonstrate that.
I am totally opposed to the DPA and totally opposed to a wind farm in the area identified by Acciona.
It is extremely disappointing that after having spent more than $100,000 to overturn the decision of the Council, that the Government seeks to change the rules by deeming wind farms to be appropriately managed if they are 1km away from a residence. In my particular instance, the nearest turbines were 850m away. An additional 150m away will not have a substantial decrease in the visual impact of the wind farm. The same comment applies to a number of other dwellings which are sited from as little as 750m away from the nearest turbines to a little over a km away.
Further, I repeat the DPA approach is completely inconsistent with the expert finding of the ERD Court that this wind farm cannot and should not be established in this area because of its visual impact. No Development Plan deeming provision can overcome that express finding.
In my opinion, the DPA should immediately be revoked.
If Acciona lodges a fresh application – which is most likely seeking to take “advantage” of the new DPA – I will take whatever steps are necessary to overturn any favourable decision including challenging the matter by way of judicial review proceedings in the Supreme Court challenging the validity of the DPA together with any further action that my family and I might be advised to take.
It is completely improper for a Government to seek to overturn the very detailed and considered opinion of the specialist ERD Court on a visual impact of this wind farm.
Further, there is an issue regarding noise from wind farms. This has been demonstrated by the recent decision of the Full Supreme Court to allow an appeal by the Quinn Family in relation to the wind farm known as Hallett No 3 because of the impact that the existing Hallett Stage 2 wind farm is having in terms of noise. It is clear that noise is a major issue and the Full Supreme Court has remitted the matter back to the ERD Court for further hearing on the question of noise. Whilst the ERD Court did not uphold our appeal on the question of noise, noise is certainly an issue as is made clear by the evidence of the lay witnesses who gave evidence both in my appeal and in the Quinn/Hallett No 3 appeal.
There can be little doubt that a setback of at least 5 km’s is required from existing dwellings so as to prevent a noise nuisance from arising.
Further, there is emerging evidence that wind farms are having an adverse effect on human health – and also animal health – because of the noise.
For all of these reasons, it is completely wrong and improper to seek to facilitate a wind farm in circumstances where they will have a substantial visual impact – particularly in the area of the landscape aesthetic qualities of Eight Mile Creek near my property – and also where there will be 60 plus residences within 2 kms of the wind farm which will be adversely affected by the visual impact and the noise generated by the wind farm.
Any fresh application by Acciona must be refused despite the changes introduced by the wind farm DPA.
In our opinion Rann’s new Amendments are completely undemocratic and are an invasion of human rights and it is also close to dictatorship. I thought we lived in a country which gave us the right of freedom. To live in a rural environment and not in a wind factory and to speak out when something is going to interfere with our lives.
If we lived in the city and our neighbours were having parties and keeping us awake then we can ask them to keep the noise down, if they keep continuing then you ring the police. Who do people ring when the wind turbines keep them awake?
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