The anti-wind farm movement that is gaining influence in the NSW Parliament is being ”aided and abetted” by climate sceptic groups and some mining figures.
The cabinet debated new wind farm guidelines yesterday, with division over whether NSW should follow Victoria and order wind turbines to be set further back from houses.
The Shooters and Fishers Party, which shares the balance of power in the upper house with the Christian Democrats, said yesterday it wanted a moratorium on new wind farms.
Industry sources said a US Tea Party-style ”astroturf” campaign, which mimics grassroots local opposition but is at least partly directed from elsewhere, was being waged against wind energy in NSW, which was expected to bring up to $10 billion in investment this decade as it accelerated to meet the national 20 per cent renewable energy target.
Wind farm opponents include a coalition of local groups under the banner ”landscape guardians”, and the Australian Environment Foundation, which sprang up seven years ago from a conference run by the right-wing think-tank the Institute of Public Affairs, but is now a separate group.
”Our role is, if you like, aiding and abetting what local communities are doing and helping them voice their disapproval over wind farms,” said the foundation’s executive director, Max Rheese.
While local groups say they believe the inaudible noise and vibration from wind farms affect human health, the foundation does not think humans have a role in causing climate change and therefore believes wind farms are an expensive extravagance.
It hosted the British climate sceptic Lord Monckton last year and says it ”questions the whole science behind anthropogenic global warming”.
Mr Rheese said the foundation had paid for anti-wind signs at public meetings and lobbied the Shooters and Fishers Party, and the National and Liberal parties in NSW.
The Shooters and Fishers MP Robert Borsak said yesterday the party would wait for the cabinet decision but would use its critical position in the upper house to oppose any pro-wind farm legislation that came to Parliament.
The party had discussed wind farms with the foundation but had come up with its own policy calling for a moratorium and public inquiry into wind turbines, Mr Borsak said.
”We do probably see eye to eye with them on this and many issues, but this is a party position that we have finalised internally.”
The Premier, Barry O’Farrell, said in August it was his opinion that no new wind farms should be built in NSW, but it is understood there are divisions in cabinet about the issue.
The Nationals MP and Roads Minister, Duncan Gay, said yesterday his anti-wind farm views were well known and he hoped yesterday’s cabinet meeting ”addresses the sins of the past”.
”I live at Crookwell; we’ve certainly come under the brunt of poor planning and lack of community consultation of wind farms in the past … It puts friends against friends, neighbours against neighbours.”
The Waubra Foundation is a national group arguing wind farms can cause illness because of the vibrations from turbines. It lodged a submission based on perceived health concerns with the government yesterday.
The chairman, Peter Mitchell, said his opposition to wind farms was based on health concerns and nothing to do with his background as a former director of oil and gas companies.
”The critics here are really playing shoot the messenger, which I find ridiculous,” he said.
The British equivalent of landscape guardians, ”country guardians”, was funded and supported by elements of the British nuclear energy industry.
Labor’s environment spokesman, Luke Foley, said ”flat earthers” were running a scare campaign against wind power.