A Kiwi couple have done what the Aussies couldn’t – fought a corporate energy generator and won.
Bernie and Angela Molloy left Ashburton in 2007 to start a new life in the Australian state of Victoria. They found that new life in Naroghid, near Cobden, buying a 420 milking cow farm.
What they didn’t realise, what neither the vendor nor their real estate agent told them, was that their farm lay on grazing land eyed by Kiwi company, Windfarm Developments.
The Molloy farm was part of a planned Naroghid wind farm, one of up to six wind farms planned in the area.
What the windfarm company hadn’t counted on, however, was the determination of one couple to pick up the fight to retain their land and the land of their neighbours as a home for cows rather than wind turbines.
Fourteen of their neighbours would have been adversely affected if the windfarm company had won the fight to erect turbines and most had been fighting for years to stall the project.
“We didn’t find out about this until late in the piece, but the plan had been in the pipeline since 2006. The others had been against it since the beginning but they’d got a bit weary. We came in and did what we could,” Mrs Molloy said.
If the windfarm company had been successful, a turbine would have been constructed about 600 metres from the Molloy’s house.
‘While we’ve got a screened garden it would have been noisy and no-one knows what the side effects are from living close to wind turbines,” Mrs Molloy said.
She puts their success in foiling the wind farm plans down to a huge letter writing effort. On behalf of their neighbours they wrote to newspapers, members of Parliament, the Premier of Victoria. They talked to anyone who would listen and fought their battle without any legal intervention.
And they fought the heavy and sometimes threatening artillery brought out by the windfarm team. Unlike many farmers who have wind turbines on their farms, the Molloys and their neighbours had not already entered into deals to lease their land to the energy company. If those deals are struck turbines can be erected and farmers are paid for each turbine on their farm.
Some farmers receive up to $100,000 a year for being “accommodating”, Mrs Molloy said.
“We’re one of the few who haven’t agreed to be contracted. If we had we’d have 21 turbines on our land plus a sub station.”
Until the Kiwi couple arrived, farmers in the area might not have liked the idea of wind turbines on their land, but believed they didn’t have any option. Objections were usually neither heard and if they were, they were usually dismissed, she said.
“People just tend to roll over.”
They didn’t and today they and their neighbours are celebrating.
Victoria’s state planning minister Matthew Guy refused the windfarm consent and while the company has applied for an extension of its permit, but if this is granted, Mrs Molloy said this would be granted using 2010 conditions.
That would ensure the wind turbines were not built because those conditions would mean they could not be within 1.5km of a house.
Under the current plan, all 14 houses in the area would be within that distance.
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