After all was said and done at last Thursday’s public forum on the proposed Eden wind farm, what it seemed to come down to is whether or not the seven, 135 metre wind turbines proposed for the South East Fibre Exports (SEFE) site could jeopardise Eden’s future as a tourism drawcard.
The visual appeal or otherwise of the turbines – which will make Boyd’s Tower look like a match stick – is the one issue that it seems everyone can agree on; you either like the look of the wind turbines or you see them as a blot on the landscape.
Its likely tourists will feel the same.
Organisers estimate close to 200 people attended the public forum hosted by the Eden Chamber of Commerce.
The two-hour session included speakers both for and against the development. Proponent EPURON was represented by Daniel Gilbert and Martin Poole who welcomed the opportunity to “have as much communication as we can” on the proposed wind farm development.
EPURON have received 60 submissions on the wind farm from members of the public and while acknowledging these are both positive and negative, they agree that how the turbines look is the challenging issue.
“The visual impact of the turbines is the most difficult aspect to comment on because it’s a very personal thing,” Martin Poole said last Thursday.
Clean Energy for Eternity campaigner Matthew Nott also acknowledged that the visual aesthetic of the turbines is an issue.
“When we talk about issues of visual impact, I’m not from Eden so I wouldn’t comment on it. Ecotourism is a rapidly growing branch of tourism. Experience from other coastal wind farms is that they do attract tourists.
“Wind is the cheapest and most cost effective source of renewable energy. There are many rewards if we strive to meet that (50/50 by 2020) target,” Mr Nott said.
Valuer John Jess from Yarraman in Victoria said in his experience in South Gippsland, properties near wind farms had decreased in value by up to 35 per cent.
“Properties near the Toora wind farm (12 turbines) devalued by up to 35 per cent. That location is spectacular but the Twofold Bay location is even more spectacular. Wind farms create deep divides in communities. If you don’t look after your back yard no-one else will,” he warned.
Ed Chenery and Bruce Leaver from the Sapphire Coast Tourism Board were blunt about the impact they expect the wind farm to have on Eden’s tourism potential.
“We are absolutely unique,” Mr Chenery said. “Of all the infrastructure that we have in Eden, the thing that is most important is the way Twofold Bay looks. It’s more important even than the Killer Whale Museum or the marine discovery centre. We would certainly struggle without those things but without our pristine wilderness landscape?
“I am passionate about it because I think the town is going to get a dud if the wind farm gets up,” Mr Chenery said.
Bruce Leaver agreed.
“Eden is one of the top 16 world class nature tourism destinations that Tourism Australia markets to the world. ‘Nature’ is the top motivator for international visitors.
“Will the wind farm intrude into the wilderness landscape? Let’s not shoot ourselves in the foot if the answer is ‘yes’,” Bruce Leaver said.
Aboriginal elder Pastor Ossie Cruse acknowledged the need to have a local renewable energy program, “… but not in the wrong place. Bilgara (Fisheries Beach) will be the start of the Bundian Way and it will be ranked as one of the unique pathways of the world. The tourism program we are developing will be environmentally based. We’ve tested it with the cruise ships. It’s very popular with them and ranks as one of their preferred experiences.
“Don’t destroy one program that’s proven for another that you hypothesise will benefit us.
“The tourist project will go on for eternity. The wind farm won’t. Move the wind farm to another logical location,” Pastor Cruse said.
Local businessman Alan Fraser noted the NSW government was currently reviewing draft wind farm guidelines that acknowledge issues around noise, blade glint, shadow flicker, night lighting and blade throw.
“We live here. EPURON are not doing this for free. We support renewable energy, but put it somewhere else,” Mr Fraser concluded.
As the meeting wound down it became clear that the battlelines are drawn and the town will do all in its power to fight the wind farm development.
The Southern Joint Regional Planning Panel will ultimately determine whether the wind farm proceeds. The panel is holding a public briefing meeting in Eden on Thursday, February 2 commencing at 11am at the Eden Gardens Country Club auditorium. Representatives of community groups and individuals interested in addressing the panel can register to speak by contacting Lisa Foley on (02) 9228 2060 before Monday, January 30, or email email@example.com.