ELEANOR HALL: A company that makes wind turbines is urging the Victorian Government to respond to a Health Department report by ending restrictions on wind farms in the state.
The report by the Victorian Health Department dismissed concerns that wind farm noise makes people ill, although it did find that the noise could be annoying.
In Melbourne, Simon Lauder reports.
SIMON LAUDER: Noel Dean moved to Ballarat to get away from Waubra. He says the wind farm there made him sick.
NOEL DEAN: I got severe air pressure problems in the inner ear and I was very ill for a number of weeks.
SIMON LAUDER: And what was the link with the wind turbines?
NOEL DEAN: Well it was the sound pressure or air pressure coming from the turbines was too great for my body to handle.
SIMON LAUDER: The assertion that wind turbines make people sick has been a sticking point for the industry for years. Opponents of turbines say they produce inaudible sound that affects the health of people who live close to them.
Now Victoria’s Health Department has produced a report dismissing that claim.
It says if you can’t hear a sound then there’s no way known that it can affect health, regardless of the frequency. It says the level of noise produced by a wind farm is somewhere between a rural night-time background noise and the sound of a car passing 100 metres away.
STEVE GARNER: Well my first reaction is we’ve all been thinking this all along but it’s really nice to get the evidence from professionals, and to see that now is quite heartening.
SIMON LAUDER: Steve Garner is the general manager of Keppel Prince Engineering, which makes wind turbines.
STEVE GARNER: Look I think it has damaged business, I think it’s put a perception out there that they do create bad health.
SIMON LAUDER: Victoria has tough restrictions on wind farms, allowing anyone to veto a new turbine within two kilometres of their home.
The Government has never linked those restrictions with health concerns but Mr Garner says it should now reconsider them anyway.
STEVE GARNER: And a lot of those objections come about from the myth of your health and now that that myth has been taken away, then maybe revisiting those laws is something that ought to be done.
SIMON LAUDER: The Victorian Health Department report follows a recent report by South Australia’s Environmental Protection Agency, which also rejected the link between wind farms and sickness.
But the health argument is still a barrier for the wind industry.
Victoria’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal has put off its decision on a wind farm project near Seymour, until the National Health and Medical Research Council completes a review of evidence about the health effects.
Jonathan Upson is from the company behind the Cherry Tree wind farm project, Infigen Energy.
JONATHAN UPSON: We found that decision to be unfortunate. We think there was plenty of evidence stated that there wasn’t any problems and of course this Victorian Department of Health report further reinforces that argument.
SIMON LAUDER: Is it frustrating that this issue doesn’t seem to be going away?
JONATHAN UPSON: It is but I think reports like the Victorian Department of Health when, they are a very independent and credible authority, when they come out and make these reports I think that is, you know hopefully what we’re seeing is the science and facts starting to rise to the top of the debate, rather than the more emotional and anecdotal stories that the media, some aspects of the media like to focus on.
SIMON LAUDER: The emotion is still there for Noel Dean. He says the Health Department report is wrong.
NOEL DEAN: Well I don’t know what they’re talking about. They obviously haven’t talked to, spoken, talked or listened to the people who have been harmed. We’re the ones with the symptoms and they’ve got to talk to us.
SIMON LAUDER: The group which has campaigned the hardest for wind farm syndrome to be recognised, the Waubra Foundation, would not be interviewed for this story.
In an email to The World Today the head of the foundation, Sarah Laurie, says the Victorian Health Department refused to investigate health problems properly and its report is nothing but government spin.
The National Health and Medical Research Council’s literature review is due for release later this year.
ELEANOR HALL: Simon Lauder in Melbourne.
[audio available at source]
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