March 6, 2012

Award-winning woolgrowers surrender to wind farm

Alex Sinnott, The Standard, 7 March 2012

Award-winning wool producers Annie and Gus Gardner (pictured) have decided to finish up life on the land after a seven-year battle with wind energy developers.

The Macarthur graziers indicated they are likely to move off their farm after a three-decade career, claiming development works around their property have hindered the ability of their livestock to produce ultra-fine wool.

Mr and Mrs Gardner have become the highest-profile opponents of the massive Macarthur wind farm.

It will be the largest of its kind in Australia once completed.

More than 140 turbines will dot the landscape around the Gerrigerrup and Ripponhurst districts once the project is completed next year.

Mrs Gardner claimed project developer AGL refused to listen to farmers’ concerns and queries.

She said a rock crushing operation at the southern boundary of her farm had disturbed livestock.

She described the noise as like “machinegun effects from a war movie.”

“AGL have conducted this development with absolutely no consideration for nearby landholders, it’s just been appalling,” Mrs Gardner said.

“We’ve now got to the point where we’ve had to seriously consider leaving our farm after 30 years developing our business.

“Sheep that produce ultra-fine wool are sensitive to this noise but any animal would be disturbed by the noise coming from the rock crushing.”

Ripponhurst farmer Ken Rees said helicopters carrying concrete for the wind farm had disturbed his lambs as had jack-hammering work within 70 metres of his boundary fence.

“There’s been a huge amount of disruption from AGL with absolutely no consultation,” Mr Rees said.

“AGL damned the Moyne River, which runs through my property, without consulting me, when they were allowed a culvert not a dam wall.

“I had to go through local catchment management authority to have the flow resurrected.”

AGL announced in August 2010 that the $1 billion project would be built on three properties near Macarthur as part of a deal with New Zealand power generator Meridian.

Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik visited Macarthur last year to shore up support for the project with Copenhagen-based Vestas supplying all 140 turbines.

AGL construction development project manager Jeff Trompf said the company and its contractors had significantly reduced the number of road haulage vehicles since Christmas.

“This has addressed community safety concerns that have been expressed from community groups and individuals,” Mr Trompf told The Standard.

“We are now confining the bulk of our activities to the Macarthur wind farm site, including the preparation of road base materials for the site’s internal roads.”

The Gardners came second in a nationwide fleece competition organised by famed Italian suit-maker Ermenegildo Zegna last year.

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