TANYA NOLAN: In a state where the Premier believes there should be no new wind farms getting approval for the energy-producing turbines just got harder.
The New South Wales state Planning Minister is proposing what he calls the “toughest wind farm guidelines in Australia and possibly the world”. There’ll be a new assessment process for wind farms proposed within two kilometres of existing homes and the noise levels for new wind farms won’t be able to exceed 35 decibels.
The State Government says the guidelines won’t please either side the wind farm debate, but says it will provide more certainty for energy companies.
Karen Barlow reports.
KAREN BARLOW: In August this year the New South Wales Premier Barry O’Farrell put forward his personal view that no new wind farms should be built in the state. Since then there has been keen interest in the Coalition Government’s official policy on wind farms.
The draft guidelines announced today by the State Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard gets tough on wind farms.
BRAD HAZZARD: This Government is imposing the strictest guidelines that exist in Australia. There will effectively be a prima facie two-kilometre set back from any other homes.
KAREN BARLOW: That is the same two-kilometre ban that exists in Victoria. But in New South Wales there will be an opportunity for wind farm applicants to negotiate with neighbours.
BRAD HAZZARD: And if all of the neighbours are in agreement then obviously there is no particular difficulty with proceeding.
We also have though a further appeal mechanism. If a proponent of a wind farm doesn’t get the approval of all owners within two kilometres then that proponent will be able to appeal to the local joint regional planning panel and to try and receive an approval to proceed with the development application process.
KAREN BARLOW: It is being called a gateway process. The applications going through it must detail predicted noise levels and photomontages of the visual impact. The impact on what is called landscape values must be shown as is the potential for blade glint or shadow flicker.
The State Planning Minister Brad Hazzard says the state has worked with the wind farm sector and communities to strike a balance.
BRAD HAZZARD: I suspect that no one of the particular lobby groups will be particularly happy because we are trying to strike the balance.
KAREN BARLOW: The New South Wales Government says the state is still committed to the national 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020. But the renewable energy sector is deeply concerned.
Andrew Bray is from the group 100% Renewable.
ANDREW BRAY: Oh, I think Barry O’Farrell is out of step with the public on this. There are many problems with it. The main one is having to get signed agreement of every landholder within two kilometres of a development and that’s as a first step. What other infrastructure projects have to clear that kind of hurdle?
KAREN BARLOW: So do you think it is pretty much impossible within two kilometres?
ANDREW BRAY: Um, it is certainly very difficult. I mean there is so much red tape that is now being thrown at wind farms on this and by contrast if you look at the development of coal seam gas and the dangers that that has for agricultural farm land and for health of people around there, there is nothing like the same kind of red tape that applies to that.
KAREN BARLOW: The New South Wales Government says this is opening up wind farms for community consultation and it is providing surety for business, the actual energy providers.
ANDREW BRAY: It is critical that all developers undertake a rigorous consultation process with communities but we don’t want a situation where a single disgruntled landholder who might have an ideological block to renewable energy can hold up an entire project that offers local jobs and investment to the rest of the community.
KAREN BARLOW: Some people living near wind turbines have claimed adverse health impacts and the New South Wales Government says it is talking a precautionary approach to this issue.
A 2009 National Health and Medical Research Council review considered the impact of infra sound, noise, electromagnetic interference, shadow flicker and blade glint produced by wind turbines.
At the time, the published evidence did not positively link wind turbines with any adverse health effects. The council is currently reviewing its position and Brad Hazzard says the jury is still out. People can comment on the draft guidelines until March the 14th next year.
TANYA NOLAN: Karen Barlow reporting.
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