A Victorian council has conceded that a wind farm development still in its early stages has slashed the land value of its neighbours, and agreed their land rates should be cut.
In what is believed to be an Australian first, South Gippsland shire council has amended the rates notice for one neighbour of the Bald Hills wind farm project, which is yet to erect any of its 52 planned turbines.
The move is being cited as a victory by wind farm opponents, who claim the visual impact and noise of turbines, as well as possible health effects, drive down land values for neighbours.
South Gippsland Council chief executive Tim Tamlin said the value of a property adjacent to the Bald Hills site at Tarwin Lower, 170km southeast of Melbourne, was considered different from surrounding farm blocks because it was a coastal block bought for “lifestyle purposes”.
“This person, from what I can understand, paid a premium when they purchased it,” Mr Tamlin said. “They’re saying, ‘Hey, this isn’t fair now there’s a wind farm and I’m not going to be able to sell it to the market at that value any more’.
“We’ve gone and had a look and said ‘Yeah, that’s actually a fair call, you’re not going to get that any more’, which is sad really because the money he is going to save on his rates is never going to compensate for the capital loss.”
The neighbour, who declined to be named, has had his capital improved value assessment reduced by 32 per cent, from $662,000 to $450,000.
Mr Tamlin said the council had been “inundated” with other residents seeking similar reductions on their rates because of the wind farm. Cases would be assessed on their individual merits.
“One person 4km away has requested a rate review,” he said. “If there is an impact on these properties and they don’t (come forward and say) ‘Hey, how about me’, they will get picked up on the two-yearly (assessment) cycle if there is a change in their values.”
Don Jelbart has owned property near the site since 1985 and now plans to make his own appeal to the council for a rate reduction based on lower land value.
“I bought more land in 2002 just before the wind farm raised its head, with the sole purpose of that land being our superannuation,” Mr Jelbart said. “Once you put wind turbines there, the coastal value is removed.”
Mr Jelbart and his neighbours estimate the wind farm development will wipe $20 million from the value of nearby properties.
“Our land is being used as a buffer zone for an industrial site,” he said.
The Bald Hills wind farm has had a turbulent history since it was first approved by the Victorian government in 2004.
Howard government environment minister Ian Campbell temporarily stymied the project two years later when he used the threatened status of the orange-bellied parrot to block the project, before reversing his position.
Amended planning guidelines introduced by the Baillieu government would stop the wind farm, if it were proposed now, because turbines fall within 2km of opposed residents, but the rules are not retrospective.
Project owners Mitsui began road works at the site last August, but the first turbine is not expected to go up until September.
Real Estate Institute of Victoria policy and public affairs manager Robert Larocca said not enough properties near wind farms changed hands to assess whether the projects had an impact on land values.
“The data doesn’t allow us to do that,” he said. “A professional valuer may have their own individual point of view about a property, but at an overall level we are unable to discern the impact, negative or positive.”
The British Valuation Office Agency, which decides council tax valuations, last year ruled wind turbines built near homes could sharply decrease their value, moving some homes into a lower council tax band.
Mark Burfield, who is awaiting turbine construction within 1km from his property, has already received a verbal knockback from South Gippsland council after asking for a rates adjustment.
He is trying to sell some of his property, receiving one offer for $200,000 less than he advertised.
“The people came over, looked at the house and said ‘That’s fantastic’,” Mr Burfield said. “I said: ‘That’s where the wind farm will go.’ They went to see the wind farm manager, then came back and roasted the real estate agent.
“They said there is no way they were going to buy here and whata pity it was. I have $2.5m worth of farmland, and right now its unsellable.”
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