A fiery crowd demonstrated the friction and distrust towards wind farm developments within the region at a community meeting in Penshurst this week.
About half of the almost 150 people at Thursday night’s three-hour meeting were locals, with others making the trip from around the south-west .
Waubra Foundation president, and prominent anti-wind farm campaigner, Peter Mitchell gave a presentation to residents and visitors, urging them to fight the wind farm project which proposes to bring 223 turbines just three kilometres from Penshurst.
One of the meeting’s few pro-wind farm speakers, Beyond Zero Emissions spokesman Matthew Wright, made a trip from Melbourne to attend the meeting to find his outspoken views on renewable energy largely unwelcomed by the passionate anti-wind farm crowd.
Accused of interrupting and “disrespecting” Mr Mitchell by taking photos, Mr Wright was asked to leave several times until upper house National MP David O’Brien stepped in to chair the meeting.
People identifying as wind farm victims were given an opportunity to speak before Mr Wright formally addressed the meeting.
To close the session, wind farm developer Simon Kerrison from RES was invited to answer questions from locals. Mr Mitchell told the crowd about the Waubra Foundation’s work and spoke out against the Department of Health’s approach to researching noise effects, encouraging residents to write to politicians and media about their cause.
He said it was “a fact” that wind farms were a health danger and disregarded claims there were no credible studies supporting the argument. “There are no guidelines for inaudible noise or low frequency sounds,” he said. “Infrasound has been investigated as a means of warfare.
“NASA in the early ’90s had interference with gear and it was found it was infrasound from nearby wind turbines.
“I don’t think this project will get up.”
The most emotional of the victim testimonies came from Cape Bridgewater resident Brian Kermond, who said after living near 29 wind turbines he had “sustained some indescribable symptoms”.
“My wife and two boys have been out of the home for two years now,” he said.
“Both have had impacting results from living next to the wind farm.
“Once a wind farm moves in and encroaches on your boundary I’m afraid you cannot coexist.”
Finally given a chance to speak out, Mr Wright was interrupted as he raised the Waubra Foundation’s alleged connection to the fossil fuel industry and questioned the credentials of its experts.
Riled up attendees yelled over the top of the Melbourne-based renewable energy advocate – many asked where he was from and clamoured against his unwavering statements, while some forcefully advised him to leave the meeting.
The tension was lifted as upper house MP Simon Ramsay took the microphone and pointed out that rural communities had never seen an issue more divisive than wind farms.
“We are, as rural MPs, really concerned about where we’re going with wind farms in rural areas,” he said.
Mr Kerrison said RES strongly supported and agreed that “there are no direct pathological effects from wind farms and any potential impact on humans can be minimised by following existing planning guidelines”, as stated by the National Health Research Medical Council in its “rapid review of the evidence” document in 2010, along with at least 17 credible peer-reviewed scientific studies.
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