The NSW Landscape Guardians have proposed to the NSW Government a ban on the noise generated by wind over much of the state.
The NSW Government is currently going through a process of reviewing its planning guidelines governing approval of new wind farms. The NSW Landscape Guardians, in its submission to these guidelines, stated that the government should apply a hard noise limit governing any new development such that no neighbouring household would be exposed to noise above 30 decibels. This is approximately the amount of noise generated by wind travelling at 25 kilometres per hour.
Windsurfers, sailors and kite surfers were outraged and dismayed to hear that winds above these levels would be outlawed under the provisions proposed by the Landscape Guardians. To many of them it came as a shock to learn that they may have suffered irreparable damage to their health by being exposed over a sustained period of time to noise levels the Landscape Guardians felt unsafe. However, conventional wave surfers came out in support of the change saying they’d had enough of choppy and messy surf conditions.
Climate Spectator has uncovered huge swaths of NSW exposed to these dangerous noise levels over much of Friday last week. Based on Bureau of Meteorology data every region in NSW bar the mid-North, Northern Rivers and North West Slopes experienced extensive periods over the day involving wind speeds above 25km/h and therefore exceeding the proposed noise limit of 30dBA.
Liberal and Labor Party members were warned during caucus meetings that they should keep their voices down during question time lest they attract the ire of the Landscape Guardians. This group is known to have a vast network of grassroots members, even though they seem to share the same directors across a variety of local branches.
As a precautionary principle, all people are advised to keep inside their houses whenever wind is expected to exceed 25km/h, until such time as the NSW Government legislates to bring such wind to a halt, or there is scientific proof that the noise from this wind is 100 per cent safe.
The NSW Government is currently undertaking a process of consultation on new planning approval guidelines for wind farm developments. Considering the precedent set by Victoria in substantially increasing the difficulty of developing new wind farms, this is a very important process (illustrated by a rash of five Victorian wind farms being committed to what I suspect will be a rather slow ‘construction’ process so that they avoid coming under the new rules).
But it didn’t stop us from finding something to laugh about in the submission from the NSW Landscape Guardians on noise limits they want the government to impose.
The current wind farm noise limit in NSW is the greater of 35 decibels or the background noise plus 5decibels. The reason they don’t just set hard limit of 35dBA is because there is typically always some level of noise beyond that being created by a wind farm in the background environment such as car traffic, animals, the rain or typically wind blowing in the trees. This natural background noise can regularly exceed 35 decibels, hence the idea that when background noise exceeds this level, another limit applies that makes sure wind farms aren’t noticeably disturbing households beyond what would be naturally occurring.
But the NSW Landscape Guardians weren’t satisfied with this apparent loophole to the hard noise limit, and their submission states: “we propose 30dBA, or background + 5dB, whichever is lower”
Which got us thinking about the wider consequences of such a provision.