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Wind farm critics insist health damage real

A study that claims health-damaging effects from wind farms are the product of manipulated minds has been rubbished by Manawatu residents who say the conclusion is “simplistic” and “skirting the truth”.

The study by Sydney University health professor Simon Chapman concluded that illnesses blamed on wind farms were more than likely caused by the alarm created in the mind when people suggested turbines could have negative effects.

The study found that complaints of illness were far more prevalent in communities targeted by anti-wind farm groups.

This was because most complaints about Australian wind farms had come from residents near five wind farms heavily targeted by opposition groups.

More than 80 per cent of complaints about health and noise began after 2009 when the groups “began to add health concerns to their wider opposition”, Dr Chapman said.

“In the preceding years, health or noise complaints were rare despite large and small-turbined wind farms having operated for many years.

“These people discovered if you started saying it was a health problem, a lot more people would sit up and pay attention. It’s essentially a sociological phenomenon.”

However, a senior lecturer at Massey University’s school of engineering, Huub Bakker, said the study was simplistic and flew in the face of the research he had done.

Dr Bakker has co-edited a book on turbines and conducted independent research into the effects wind turbines have on people. He said his research had suggested the effects were real. “It’s very hard to generalise people’s sensitivity.

“You can have two people standing beside each other and one will be able to hear them and the other won’t. That’s the way humans are.”

Dr Bakker said every wind farm was a different size, with different geography and that had not been taken into account in what was essentially a “lab study”.

Tararua-Aokautere Guardians president Kevin Low said some Manawatu people had health issues as a direct result of wind farms being built on the Tararua Range.

The Australian study had a few valid points but in drawing such a strong conclusion, it was skirting the truth, he said. “Some of the people who have argued they’ve felt the effects here have lived 20 kilometres away from the turbines, so the study is right in that there are people who will latch on to something to blame when things aren’t right.

“But it looked to me as though they [the study’s authors] had set out to prove something,” Mr Low said. “They had an idea of what they wanted to ‘prove’ and sure enough they ‘proved’ it.”