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Time to protest; Rural residents rally in fight against wind farm policy

Protesters will take their campaign to the steps of Parliament House on Tuesday to fight the State Government’s changes to the wind farm approval process.

Groups opposing the developments at Bagot Well, Allendale East, Hallett, Mount Bryan, Jamestown, Beetaloo, Crystal Brook, Peterborough, Millicent, Skillogalee and Curramulka will stage the rally, before the first public consultation meeting on the proposed law changes in Adelaide.

In October, the State Government announced it would review land use policy as part of the Wind Farm Development Plan Amendment to “provide greater certainty to communities and investors around renewable energy development”.

If successful, the Ministerial DPA would ensure turbines could not be built within 1 kilometre of an isolated dwelling (unless agreement was reached) and within 2km of residential zones or townships. It would also remove “the capacity for appeal by third parties against proposals” located in sparsely populated zones, provided they adhered to set guidelines and were designed to manage “visual impact”.

A series of public consultation meetings will begin next week conducted by the Development Policy Advisory Committee, which provides advice to Planning Minister John Rau on development issues.

Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges Landscape Guardians chairman Tony Walker said the DPA painted country people as second-class citizens.

“Country people will be denied the right to appeal developments that will severely impact them if they happen to live in what the DPA describes as sparsely populated areas where someone wishes to construct a wind farm,” he said.

“To have a suite of turbines that can be 1km from your house means that your health is likely to be impacted, your sleep is likely to be disturbed and the turbines effectively ruin your options of moving.

“Who else will want to live there? And you cannot appeal the decision that will impact your life in this way. This is so obviously unjust.”

The SA Liberal Party stepped up its policy on wind farms last week, announcing it would ban new wind farms from being built more than 2km near existing homes.

Opposition leader Isobel Redmond said wind farms must not be approved on sites where they created negative economic and social effects.

“We have more wind generation than any other State, with more than half of Australia’s installed wind power in SA and it is time we started looking after the communities that live near wind farms,” she said.

Other elements of the Liberals’ reforms included:

• Allowing third-party appeal rights to wind farm development.

• Contributing to national guidelines for separation distances and noise emissions.

• Developing a zoning plan outlining where industrial wind turbines can be built and clear guidelines for firefighting and bushfire protection around wind farms.

• Adopting a new approval process for wind farms that considers infrastructure.

• Protecting adjacent landowners against economic losses caused by restrictions on aerial spraying and crop-dusting.

A spokesman for Mr Rau said it was unlikely the Minister would address the protest or public meetings.

“The proposals are the subject of a comprehensive, independent consultation process and the Minister will be considering the community’s input to this process before finalising the government’s position,” the spokeman said.

Call for independent monitoring

The Mid North Wind Farm Awareness Group will be out in force at next week’s protest, raising their concerns about the sleep deprivation, noise and ear pressure issues.

Group member Mary Morris says a wind farm at Waterloo is driving residents from their homes with five families, some of whom have been in the region for decades, moving to other towns.

“Another band of wind turbines is proposed for Robertstown. Residents can already hear and feel noise and vibrations from Waterloo, so certainly do not want any more being built nearer to them,” she said. “The proposed Stony Gap wind farm would add another two ranges of hills to the growing number of wind farms in the immediate vicinity. If all this goes ahead, some people would be surrounded by turbines on three sides with no chance of peace and quiet ever again.”

The group believes there needs to be independent noise monitoring to ensure wind farms consistently meet Environment Protection Authority guidelines.

“There is no genuinely independent system of check and balances to keep the wind farm company honest,” she said.

Wind farm protest

• Rally against the Weatherill government’s new rules for assessing wind farm applications.

• Tuesday, January 17, 4-6pm, on the Parliament House steps, then from 7pm at the Adelaide public consultation meeting, Mercure Grosvenor.

• Speakers at the rally will include Noise Watch Australia’s Garry Goland, Opposition Development and Local Government spokesperson David Ridgway, MLC, and Bill Quinn, Mount Bryan, whose appeal against the Regional Council of Goyder and AGL is still before the courts.

• Public meetings will be held on: Tuesday, January 17, 7pm, Glen Roy Room, Mercure Grosvenor, 125 North Terrarce, Adelaide; Tuesday, January 24, 7pm, Naracoorte Town Hall; Tuesday, January 31, 7pm, Port Wakefield Soldiers Memorial Hall; Thursday, February 2, 7pm, Peterborough Town Hall.