SEFE general manager Peter Mitchell couldn’t sway the Joint Regional Planning Panel when he spoke in support of the proposal to site a small (seven turbine) wind farm at the SEFE location in Edrom Road on Monday.
However, he isn’t bitter towards those who objected to the proposal, which was rejected by a Joint Regional Planning Panel on Monday afternoon following months of at times heated lobbying and anti-wind farm campaigning. That campaigning included suggestions that turbines would shatter and injure SEFE workers, that high frequencies from the turbines would interfere with migrating whale sonar, and that electromagnetic fields around the turbines could pose a risk to nearby navy ammunition stores. The last suggestion was soundly rejected by the Department of Defence.
“Neither myself nor the company hold any bitterness against groups who opposed the proposed wind farm development. However I wish they would just understand the motives behind us proposing it. SEFE needs diversification and another income stream. This would have ticked those boxes.
“My other concern is for the town. Even though (the wind farm development) would have only provided a short term influx of economic activity (while components were imported and it was constructed), you’ve only got to see what the TASCO mill expansion has done for Bombala to understand what this could have meant for Eden economically.
“The change is really noticeable in Bombala. It’s a really different sort of environment to what Eden is suffering now,” Mr Mitchell said.
Although the number of turbines proposed was only small (seven) their height of 135 metres was seen by many opponents as a turn off to future eco-tourists coming to experience Australia’s Coastal Wilderness.
The detrimental visual impact of the very high turbines was one of two major concerns the Joint Regional Planning Panel cited as reasons for not approving the proposal. The second major area of concern was negative noise impact on nearby Edrom Lodge.
However Mr Mitchell said: “It’s the well-to-do people with views and real estate value concerns who have won the day.”
“All I ask for is some honesty. If the issue was only about visual impact then that’s fine. You can’t change someone’s perception of that. But to embellish that with OH & S concerns and rubbish about turbines exploding and causing damage to navy operations was quite ridiculous. It’s insulting that people had to resort to those types of bizarre nonsense.
“If it was just about the noise impact then that could have been addressed by placing a condition on the approval that Epuron (the proponent) meet whatever shortcomings were found.
“But the visual aspect was the dominant factor against it and I don’t think Epuron will be able to overcome those issues.”
“I think it’s terrible that we say we’ve got world class wilderness potential and yet we’ve got no facilities for eco-tourists to enjoy it.
“Look at the Milford Track in New Zealand. It’s an amazing walk with about 400 man-made structures supporting it. That shows you what investment can do for eco-tourism.
“We can’t expect just that the (wilderness) beauty alone is going to cause some sort of economic flow on.
I think we’re naïve if we do.”
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