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Blow up over wind farm

An application for a $100 million wind farm development in Trawool/Whiteheads Creek has attracted significant attention following a council information session earlier this month.

Australian-based company, Infigen Energy, submitted the Cherry Tree Wind Farm application to council in January, which boasts sustainable energy to power about 22,000 homes.

The wind farm plan has 16 turbines in total; each with a blade tip height of 159 metres, blade length of 59 metres, rotor diameter of 119 metres and a hub height of up to 100 metres.

While an Aurecon report for Infigen states that “the wind farm layout has been designed to minimise potential impacts on the environment and surrounding communities”, not all parties are convinced of its location.

A newly formed lobby group, the Trawool Valley Whiteheads Creek Landscape Guardians, is opposing the wind farm based on visual impact, tourism, environment concerns, probable decrease in land value, eventual deterioration of roads, noise and health concerns.

Vice-chairman and Murrindindi Shire resident Sandra Clark lives about five kilometres from the proposed site and fears the technology has not been properly studied for its society impacts.

“It’s awful, and aside from possible health impacts like sleep disorders and tinnitus, there will be effects on property values. These are major concerns,” she said.

“It’s like throwing a pebble in a dam – the ripples spread very wide.”

Yarram property valuer John Jess gave a presentation about the negative impacts of wind farms on property values in South Gippsland at the Australian Property Institute Country Conference in 2008.

His presentation included sales figures for houses in proximity to wind farms that dropped an average of 25-30 per cent in value, sold between 1993 and 2006.

Despite various independent real estate/wind turbine reviews, Real Estate Institute of Victoria policy and public affairs manager Robert Larocca said the impact is difficult to determine.

“Property sales data does not provide any evidence of negative or positive impact from the proximity to a wind farm,” he said.

“The reason is because the locations of wind farms are not often in an area of a high volume of sales.”

Blanket ban

Minister for Planning Matthew Guy officially announced a ban on wind turbines for the McHarg Ranges (including Tooborac) and Macedon Ranges in August last year.

At the time, Mr Guy said the blanket ban was to protect Macedon Ranges’ – and the other seven locations’ on the “no-go” list – natural assets and tourism opportunities.

However, the wind farm lobby group are equally concerned for those assets and opportunities in the Trawool/Whiteheads Creek area and Mitchell Shire Council continues to fight to keep the Seymour-end of the shire from stagnating.

“We (Trawool/Whiteheads Creek) are known for our pristine country,” Ms Clark said.

“People come here for the solitude, the views and to get away. This (wind farm) will totally distract from that and in a time that council is trying build up tourism.”

The wind farm will be the first of its kind in the Mitchell Shire and if approved could pave the way for the future of other wind farm-friendly sites in the area.

Council’s sustainable development director, Kerrie Birtwistle, said Mitchell Shire Council does not have a specific local policy on wind farms within its planning scheme.

She said the assessment will be guided by the relevant State Planning Framework applicable to wind energy facilities.

Ms Birtwhistle said the application for Cherry Tree Wind Farm is now being advertised with a formal closing date for submissions on August 31.

However, council will continue to receive and consider any submissions up until the time a decision is made.

Ms Birtwhistle did not indicate when this might be.

The application is available for viewing at the Seymour Library, Broadford Customer Service Centre, Wallan Customer Service Centre, Murrindindi Shire Council Yea offices, and Semi Circle, Yea.

Public meeting

A community meeting about the Cherry Tree Wind Farm application and its possible effects will be held at the Trawool Valley Resort this Wednesday (August 29) at 6.30pm.

For details call the Max Rheese Australian Environment Foundation on 0438 918 883.