Penshurst resident Keith Staff is threatening to withhold his rates payment if Southern Grampians Shire refuses to acknowledge a proposed wind farm will impact the value of his property.
Mr Staff and other residents of the town are angered by the proposed development, claiming it will substantially reduce land prices and rates should be recalculated to reflect the drop.
A recent ruling by the Federal Magistrate’s court found that wind farm proposals would negatively impact land values.
The ruling comes on the heels of last month’s decision by South Gippsland Shire Council to cut rates for one landowner on the basis that his property would lose value because of an adjacent wind farm that is yet to be built.
The resident had his land value reduced by 32 per cent, after arguing he would suffer from the proposed 52-turbine Bald Hills wind farm.
“When I get my new rates, I will refuse to pay them pending a revue… people will not move and live next to industrial wind turbines, “ Mr Staff said.
“The reality these days is the vast majority are massive industrial wind energy facilities they’re not simply wind farms.”
The issue of land values was connected but separate to health issues raised by other anti-wind farm campaigners according to Mr Staff.
To put the development into perspective, Mr Staff said the proposed turbines would top Penshurst’s nearby Mt Rouse by 75 metres.
Renewable Energy Systems (RES) Australia has proposed 223 wind turbines and associated infrastructure for the Penshurst area, producing 758 megawatts with projected costs running into the billions.
Fellow Penshurst resident Cheryl Small said she was also upset by the impact the wind farm will have on her property’s value.
Ms Small said she researched the area extensively in 2009, prior to purchasing her house and came to Penshurst for the rustic atmosphere and country living.
RES Australia announced its intentions to seek an environmental effects statement for the project in January 2011.
“I’ve thought about getting out now. I will not stay if the turbines come” Mrs Small said.
Southern Grampians Shire said it had no plans to lower rates for affected Penshurst residents, despite the recent Federal Court ruling and moves to lower rates by South Gippsland Shire.
“The Valuer General of Victoria clearly sets out the valuation process to be followed by all municipalities and their respective valuation staff (and) contractors,” a shire spokesman stated, via email.
“Council does not propose to revalue properties adjoining or in the vicinity of wind farms outside the state endorsed process.”
University of Melbourne associate professor of property, Dr Piyush Tiwari said there was international precedent for a claim of the negative impact of wind farms on property prices.
“There was a landmark case (in Britain) that suggested close proximity to wind farms would negatively impact land prices,” Dr Tiwari said.
“I think there is some serious analysis that is required around the whole issue.”
Dr Tiwari said evidence that wind farms reduced land prices for neighbouring properties was mounting, but without extensive study the perception of an impact would rule market prices.
“People generally don’t like industrial development near their homes and once them market digests that information the impact is negative,” Dr Tiwari said.
In the absence of hard data, Dr Tiwari cautioned a “wait and watch” approach.
“One of the tings that councils can do is examine areas where wind farms have been for some time, then look at how the property values have moved,” he said.
But such an approach is little comfort for the likes of Mr Staff and Ms Small, who believe the impact is occurring now.
“(Councils) find reasons to put rates up without a second’s hesitation,” Mr Staff said.
“If it’s proved that property values have fallen, rates should be backdated.
“Will the shire do that? I think we all know the answer to that. They stand to make a lot of money off affected residents, but we’re being impacted now.’
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