The wind farm saga that divided a community in the South East has blown into the city this week, as protestors gather on Parliament steps in Adelaide to voice concerns over the proposal of a statewide legislation determining the proximity of wind turbines to homes and regional centres.
Energy developer Acciona is one of a string of companies who have shown a strong interest in alternative means of energy as an investment opportunity.
Hopeful of establishing wind farms in the Allendale East and Naracoorte areas, the company has met considerable community opposition, evident from a court ruling which disallowed the development of a wind farm based on visual amenity.
As many unsatisfied residents venture to Adelaide this week, alternately, results from a new study have indicated overwhelming support for the construction of wind farms.
The study, carried out by Melbourne independent polling company Kudos in November 2011, found 80 to 90 per cent of those surveyed were in support of wind farms.
Executive Manager for Government and Corporate Affairs in Australia at Pacific Hydro, Andrew Richards, said the study outlined that support for wind farms had remained stable for the last decade.
“One of the most remarkable things was support for wind energy in the Portland, South-West region of Victoria hasn’t really changed in their level of support,” he said.
Questions in the survey ranged from ‘Do you like wind farms?’ ‘Do you support wind farms in your area?’ ‘Would you support a wind farm built near your house?’
Surveying people in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales 7/10 supported the latter question when asked directly.
While Richards admitted it was a general conclusion, he said those surveyed showed overwhelming support.
“It doesn’t say there aren’t pockets of people or some communities against it,” he said.
Community spokesperson for those in opposition of the Allendale East wind farm, Jackie Lowe, said she was critical of such surveys.
“The people further away have more impact on the survey than the people who are affected,” she questioned of the survey format.
Lowe travelled to Adelaide for the protest to voice community concerns over proposed legislation regarding the proximity of wind turbines to homes and regional centres.
In November 2011 the South Australian Government announced a rethink on the state’s wind farm planning laws which could stop people from legally appealing against such developments near homes.
Those amendments stipulate that in rural South Australia a wind turbine must have a 1 km distance from regional centres and 2 kms from homes.
It also removed the right of third party appeal.
Lowe hoped the presence of rural community members in Adelaide would highlight the issue to those out of sight.
“At the moment, unless you’re going to have one on your doorstep you don’t tend to show any interest.
“We haven’t had coverage in the Adelaide area and we want people to understand why people in the country area who are going to have wind farms, or have already got wind farms, that until research has been completed about noise ramifications and health concerns that we want the precautionary approach,” she said.
The proposed legislation is a move that has drawn sharp criticism, in particular the loss of the right of appeal.
While it has won support from many landowners, the Clean Energy Industry warns it could threaten thousands of dollars worth of investment and jobs in the region.
“It certainly has the potential to stall all future investment in wind farming in South Australia,” said acting Chief Executive Officer, Kane Thornton.
Calling Australian guidelines “some of the strictest in the world” Thornton said such restrictions would be a setback.
“It sends a pretty strong signal to the wind industry that South Australia is not a place for wind farms,” he said.
Opposition spokesperson for Urban Development and Planning, David Ridgeway, said concerns taken from rural South Australians outlined a need for a national set of guidelines.
“We think it’s a very arrogant, selfish approach from the government towards these developments in regional communities,” he said.
Mount Gambier local, Nick Fletcher, concurred with community concerns over the removal of the right to appeal.
“There are basic democratic conventions there that are being compromised,” he said.
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