Landowners who benefit financially from wind farms on their properties sleep better than those who get no monetary compensation, a public health doctor says.
Stephen Palmer – citing Dutch research from the emerging field of psychoacoustics – made the claim yesterday after delivering Regional Public Health’s neutral submission at the resource consent hearing for Genesis Energy’s proposed $1.6 billion Castle Hill Wind Farm on the Puketoi range in north Wairarapa.
“It doesn’t matter how noisy a turbine is inside a dwelling, if people are getting financial rewards, they don’t suffer health affects or annoyance,” he said.
He stressed that only a small minority of people who did not stand to gain financially from the 30,000-hectare wind farm would be prone to “sensitisation” – an emotionally triggered phenomenon where noise is amplified by the mind as anger grows.
Independent sleep expert Alex Bartle said it was “obvious” and “common sense” to conclude that people who were getting paid “would put up with the noise more. If there’s a continuous `whoosh-whoosh’ noise and you’re not getting paid, you’re more likely to be more irritated than if you were getting paid.”
However, Dr Bartle said people usually “tuned out” constant background or ambient noise – such as traffic or the hum of a computer – and that ambient noise could aid sleep.
Dr Palmer also warned that a growing rift could pit “neighbour against neighbour” after 29 landowners entered into a confidential land-use agreement to have turbines on their land in exchange for payment.
He feared a repeat of the situation at Meridian Energy’s proposed Mill Creek wind farm at Ohariu Valley, where “community discord” arose “because some people were not economically benefiting”.
In August, the Environment Court gave Mill Creek the go-ahead for 26 turbines with a combined capacity of 60 megawatts – six landowners have signed a joint land-use agreement.
Because the group was presenting its submission on Monday, Castle Hill Wind Farm Community Action Group chairman David Nelson deferred comment when asked if community divisions were developing.
The opposition lobby group represents landowners in affected areas surrounding the seven proposed turbine clusters in Pongoroa, Tiraumea, Alfredton, Bideford, Makuri, Tinui and the Rongamai Valley.
Genesis public relations manager Richard Gordon said the state-owned enterprise was aware there had been a “general issue between the haves and have-nots”.
Genesis was working with a group of about 10 wind farm neighbours to “mitigate issues”.
Castle Hill could have up to 286 turbines and provide enough electricity at peak generation to power 370,000 homes for a year.
Of 101 submitters, 66 are opposed to the development. Submission hearings continue in Masterton until Wednesday.