March 9, 2012

Council wants tougher controls on wind farms

ROBYN MURRAY, 9 March 2012

Mid-Western Regional Council has called on the State Government to amend draft guidelines for wind farms to ensure turbines are located at least two kilometres from the boundaries of neighbours’ properties and at least five kilometres from their residences.

The recommendation is included in Mid-Western Regional Council’s submission on the draft guidelines, which was adopted on Wednesday night after an extension of time to allow members of the community to have input.

Council received 15 submissions, of which five related directly to the State Government’s guidelines and three opposed wind farms in general and the proposed Uungula project in particular.

Of six submissions related to the Crudine Ridge Wind farm, four supported the project and two opposed it.

Wind farm opponents who addressed council’s open day before the meeting expressed concern about the effect of the turbines on nearby residents’ health, noise and dust during construction, visual impact, devaluation of property, traffic and degradation of roads.

In their submissions, wind farm supporters said as well as generating renewable energy, wind farms offered significant financial benefits to the farmers involved and the community and created employment during the construction phase.

Council’s group manager development and community services Catherine Van Laeren said council’s response was not intended to take a position for or against windfarm, but to address the proposed guidelines on how windfarm developments will be assessed.

However, council included in its submission a number of recommendations from the community, including a call for the Commonwealth Government initiate studies on the possible effects of wind farms on human health.

Other recommendations in council’s submission included:

n Wind farm proponents must undertake comprehensive and genuine community consultation;

n Public exhibition of wind farm applications should increase from the current 30 day minimum to at least 42 days and preferably 60 days;

n Areas of particular scenic, environmental or cultural value such as the Capertee Valley should be excluded as potential wind farm areas or subject to more stringent requirements;

n An independent national study be conducted to determine noise criteria and thresholds;

n There should be a clear process to allow residents near a wind farm to have noise issues addressed and have recourse if complaints are not addressed immediately;

n The Department of Planning should establish a protocol to allow local councils to negotiate “fair and reasonable recompense” for the impact of wind farms on local infrastructure, particularly the road network.

The guidelines should also outline procedures to address devaluation of neighbouring properties and social equity within the community, the submission stated.

General manager Warwick Bennett said submissions from the public that addressed the Uungula and Crudine Ridge windfarms rather than the state guidelines would be held back and included in future submissions on these projects.

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