Neighbours stood against neighbours and the community against the State Government during a public meeting yesterday on the proposed wind farm development in the Allendale East and Eight Mile Creek area.
Residents cheered when the Opposition leader in the Legislative Council David Ridgway revealed the Liberal Party’s policy on wind farms and vowed to push for a ban on wind turbines within five kilometres of dwellings.
The State Government recently announced a reform package which proposes a distance of 1km between turbines and dwellings and restrictions on residents to appeal against wind farm developments.
Speaking to irate residents in the Allendale East Community Hall, Mr Ridgway said the Liberals would protect communities from wind farms built too close to homes and towns.
“This includes protection against economic losses caused by restrictions on aerial fire-fighting,” he said.
According to Mr Ridgway, Southern Fleurieu CFS officers stood watching helplessly when a fire broke out at the Starfish Hill Wind Farm near Cape Jervis in November last year.
“(They) could do little but watch the blaze from a kilometre away when Safe Work SA deemed it too dangerous to approach,” he said.
Mr Ridgway said he doubted whether the government considered, under the new changes, how the lives of people could be further endangered by bush fires if fire-fighting planes were not allowed to fly close to turbines when thick smoke occurred in the air.
He said a Liberal Government would also help develop national guidelines regarding the separation distances and noise emissions and support a South Australian university peer-reviewed study into the effects of wind turbines on nearby residents and communities.
“If South Australia is to be Australia’s leading wind generation state, we should be the national leader in academic research into the industry,” he said.
Although most people in the audience applauded Mr Ridgway as he spoke, some residents continuously interrupted him with confronting questions, which led to conflict between neighbours.
Landholders Anthony McKinnon and Brenton Berkefeld – who have been offered $9000 per turbine per year on their property by wind farm developer Acciona Energy – were asked to keep quiet by neighbours when they interrupted the speaker.
“The issues around wind farms are dividing communities,” Mr Ridgway told The Border Watch.
“I have seen this division among country communities throughout the state – on the one side are those who host turbines on their properties and are getting paid, who think they are fantastic, and on the other side are their neighbours who are affected,” he said.
But residents also did not hide their distrust in the State Government and shouted allegations of suspicion over the “sudden” reform package announced by former Premier Mike Rann on the day before he stepped down.