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Mt Emerald windfarm developers will ‘look at issues again’ after yesterday’s angry protest

Developers of a proposed wind farm at Mt Emerald near Walkamin have said they will look again at some of the contentious issues raised at an angry protest meeting in Mareeba on Wednesday.

Ratch Australia and partners, Port Bajool who own the 7000 acres of land at Mt Emerald, were holding an information day at the Mareeba Heritage Museum and Information Centre yesterday when the demonstrators took over proceedings with a long list of questions using a loud hailer.

They raised a series of concerns which Ratch Australia’s executive general manager operations and business development, Geoff Dutton, told them would be answered in the next two weeks.

Mr Dutton said during a presentation by Ratch Australia to the Tablelands Regional Council in Atherton that they would be looking again at some of the issues, including aerial spraying, which councillors highlighted as a major concern.

Farmers in the area say that the proposed 75-80 turbines in the $540 million project would hit aerial spraying downwind and put pilots’ lives and their own livelihoods in danger.

Yesterday the demonstrators – mostly farmers and residents – staged a vocal protest outside the Mareeba Heritage Museum and Information Centre.

But when they moved inside where executives from wind turbine operator and land owners, Ratch Australia and Port Bajool, were conducting an information day, protesters agreed to leave their banners outside.

When they turned on their megaphone and started demanding answers to a series of questions, a Ratch representative protested that they did not have the right to “hijack” the information day, which brought jeers from a boisterous crowd.

One speaker after another asked through the loud-hailer why the meeting was being held at Mareeba, when those affected lived at Tolga and Walkamin.

They wanted to know about noise from the turbines, how safe it would be for pilots, the effect on aerial crop ­spraying, concerns about the visual impact and wildlife in the area, and how close the nearest dwelling would be to the turbines.

Geoff Dutton, Ratch Australia’s executive general manager operations and business, said members of his team of experts would answer questions on an individual basis and respond within two weeks.

Mr Dutton said that they had reduced the number of turbines initially proposed in certain locations after community consultation, which reduced their output by 8 percent, leading to a reduction in revenue.

He later told the media: ­“People are coming here asking sensible questions.

“We want to answer all of those questions in a sensible way, but it is not appropriate to have a debate across a crowd.”

Farmer Rob Watkins, the general manager of Mt Uncle Farming, said the proposal would deface a “beautiful creation of nature” but Mr Dutton said there would be “minimal impact on views”.