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Wind-farm impacts on a farming community  

Credit:  Naomi Bittner, Spring 2012, The Cutting Edge, South Australia No-Till Farmers Association ~~

I moved to Yorke Peninsula after graduating as a vet and was drawn to the small hamlet of Curramulka, where I met and subsequently married a third-generation farmer. I cherished the fact we were able to raise our three children in a tight-knit community where our neighbours were also our friends. Great mates who helped save our home from fire, who celebrated good years with us, weathered dry years alongside us and supported us through personal tragedies.

Since announcement of the proposed wind turbine development late last year there has been a noticeable rift in this community. People don’t look each other in the eye anymore. Most of the residents I have spoken to are opposed to the development but don’t broadly advertise that fact for fear of offending life-long friends and family who are considering hosting turbines. The potential hosts are ambiguous as they are bound by confidentiality clauses, so there is an air of suspicion hovering over the district. A feeling of betrayal is also evident among the affected community; with some of the land involved farmed by people who live elsewhere and other planning to move once turbines are constructed on their properties.

Unlike any existing wind turbine development in Australia, the proposed local project will encompass 800 square kilometres of prime agricultural land. the world’s population is forecast to hit nine billion by 2050 but the land available for agriculture is decreasing by 10% a decade. Less than 10% of SA’s land is farmed. Food security is paramount and is one fo the reasons the Yorke Peninsula Community Group has lobbied the government to place a moratorium on approving wind turbine construction on prime agricultural land.

The group has also asked that issues relating to the high-yielding crops we grow be considered carefully. Planes can’t fly around turbines safely but we rely heavily on aerial spraying and baiting to minimise crop losses, and thick crops and stubble fuel all-too-frequent fires. The findings of the coronial inquest into the terrible Eyre Peninsula fires that took nine lives in 2005 clearly state that the lack of aerial water-bombing played a large part in the tragedy, so to approve a development that would impede aerial fire control in an environment like ours seems illogical and potentially litigious.

Another major concern is the health of our children, who would be very susceptible to the potential negative health impacts of wind turbine infrasound. These impacts have been documented to the point that the National Medical and Health Research Council has warned governments to take a precautionary approach to situating turbines near homes, pending further research.

It upsets me greatly that a small group of our neighbours have jumped at the financial carrot dangled in front of them without apparent consideration of the potential financial and social ramifications in their community. I believe whole-heartedly that if these turbines go ahead, only then will everyone realise what a disaster they are in prime cropping land. But by then it will be too late.

Veterinarian Dr Naomi Bittner and her husband Craig run a mixed enterprise – cropping, beef cattle, sheep, fodder production, and contract hay and windrowing – at Curramulka.

Source:  Naomi Bittner, Spring 2012, The Cutting Edge, South Australia No-Till Farmers Association

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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