Victorian Premier, Dr Denis Napthine, officially opened the Macarthur Wind Farm today under tight security and the distant glare of protestors.
A select group of industry officials, locals and media were invited to participate in the opening, including Ditlev Engel, chief executive of the Danish engineering firm, Vestas, which constructed the farm’s turbines.
Mr Engel said Australia was ideally placed to reap the benefits of modern wind farm technology.
“In Denmark, where I come from, we have 44,000 square kilometres of land. In Australia you have eight million square kilometres of land, so there should be good opportunities to find some good space to put them up and do so with the right regulatory planning,” Mr Engel told ABC radio. “You have fantastic wind resources and you have a lot of land,” he added.
Organisers were coy about why yesterday’s official opening drew such high levels of security and secrecy, but it is suspected local opposition to the project was to blame.
Despite the precautions, word leaked to wind farm opponents and about 55 protestors from interstate and the local area rallied to the site’s entrance.
Police monitored the situation, but the Premier was expected to enter the site through a rear door to avoid them.
Invited guests and officials outnumbered the protestors two to one, but several had their cars hit by protestors as they arrived on site.
Protracted criticism of the wind farm from some nearby residents, protesting both perceived impacts on health and land values, have plagued the project since its inception.
Vocal Macarthur wind farm opponent and organiser of yesterday’s protests, Annie Gardner said she was disappointed the Premier had not seen fit to discuss the issue with aggrieved locals.
“We are very disappointed with Dr Napthine, he is our local member. He has been invited twice to come and speak with us, which he has not done – and he has not replied,” she said.
“Now he is keenly accepting invitations from AGL to open the wind farm.”
David Mortimer and his wife, Alida travelled from South Australia to lend their support to the protest.
The couple received several thousand dollars a year to host two wind turbines on their property at Lake Bonney, but said it was not enough to overcome health difficulties they have experienced since the turbines were constructed.
“People need to know what’s happening,” Mr Mortimer said.
For the full story, see tomorrow’s edition of The Spectator.
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