A risk to Australia’s defence capability and migrating whales were among concerns raised at a public meeting chaired by the Joint Regional Planning Panel (JRPP) on Thursday, February 2.
The panel was in Eden to hear public submissions from 16 individuals and group representatives as part of the planning application process for the seven-turbine wind farm at the South East Fibre Export site on Twofold Bay.
Applicant Epuron explained their proposal to the panel and around 30 concerned locals, before representatives from SEFE, Clean Energy for Eternity, the Save Twofold Bay Group, South Coast Tourism and Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council, and several individuals were given the opportunity to raise issues for consideration in the Bega Valley Shire Council’s assessment report to the panel for final deliberation.
JRPP chair, Pam Allan, said it was basically an information gathering exercise to ensure there weren’t issues that had not been previously addressed in the proposal’s impact statement.
“There was the impact on whales and whale migration and some interesting information on our defence,” she said.
“That was the point of the exercise today, to get those sorts of issues brought forward and now it’s up to the council to address them. If necessary they go back to government agencies or they go back to the developer and get that further information.”
The concern about the whales was that there had been no comprehensive research into potential impact on whale migration past the proposed site.
New Eden resident, Leanne Scott, said she was semi-retired from a logistics position with the Australian Defence Force and she didn’t believe the wind farm would be allowed to go ahead on the site so close to the ammunition store.
She said that electromagnetic fields could potentially cause a detonation and believed that Australia’s defensive capability would be compromised by radio interference.
Other concerns included the cultural impact on Greencape and Ms Allan said she was surprised to see the visual impact presented in photomontages supplied by the Save Twofold Bay Action Group.
Meanwhile, Epuron director Martin Poole, who has overseen the approval of seven wind farm projects in NSW, said he believed all bases were covered in the original impact statement.
“I think we’ve addressed all the issues in the Statement of Environmental Effects that was presented to council and appears on our website,” he said after the meeting.
“We wouldn’t have thought there was any impact on whales but if there needs to be any explanation on what has been done then so be it,” he added.
“I presume the concern is about low frequency sound, but the sea is one of the biggest generators of low frequency sound on the planet, so we’ll talk to the people with these concerns and find out exactly what it is they want us to address and then we’ll address it.
“We have already consulted with the Department of Defence but if we need to engage with some other area within the department we can definitely do that,” he said in response to Mrs Scott’s concerns.
“But there are no electromagnetic emissions of any consequence from beyond the turbine as was clearly set out in the Statement of Environmental Effects.
“I think that’s what people were raising – something to do with electrical fields. We have looked into that and if it is a concern that the Department of Defence hasn’t passed onto us, then we’ll go back and check with them again.”
As well as many speakers against the wind farm, there were also supporters.
Derek Povel of Clean Energy for Eternity said there was evidence that in towns such as Albany wind farms had proved to attract visitors and suggested an observation platform up in a turbine tower would be of tourism interest.
These and the other points raised will now be investigated by Epuron and council officers who will now put together a report with recommendations to be considered by the JRPP for determination.
Mrs Allan said that process would take around two months and that a determination meeting would then be held where public submissions would also be heard prior to a final decision on the application.
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