TONY EASTLEY: In less than a fortnight, the small community of King Island will vote on whether to give the go ahead to a $2 billion wind farm – the largest in the southern hemisphere.
The state-owned developer, Hydro Tasmania says the project could generate more than a quarter of the nation’s target of 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020.
However not all islanders are so convinced.
Health concerns stemming from the wind turbines have been publicised on King Island by health promotion company the Waubra Foundation, and its controversial CEO, Dr Sarah Laurie.
Dr Laurie is currently the subject of a complaint before the National Health and Medical Research Council.
Sarah Dingle reports
(Sound of waves)
SARAH DINGLE: On tiny King Island, you’re never far from the sea.
Its location in the Bass Strait means the island’s right in the middle of the Roaring Forties and experiences wind speeds of about eight metres a second.
DAVE MOUNTER: It is probably the best wind resource in Australia.
SARAH DINGLE: That’s David Mounter – the wind asset development manager with Hydro Tasmania.
State-government owned, Hydro Tasmania is Australia’s biggest renewable energy generator.
It wants to build 200 wind towers, 150 metres high at the blade tip.
Hydro Tasmania has decided to ask the islanders to vote on whether the $18 million feasibility stage should go ahead.
That gamble could backfire.
A month ago, wind farm opponents invited Dr Sarah Laurie to speak at a public meeting on King Island.
The CEO of health promotion company the Waubra Foundation, Dr Laurie says low frequency noise from wind turbines has a wide range of harmful effects on the body.
SARAH LAURIE: Tinnitus, balance problems, dizziness, headaches; it can also involve ‘fuzzy thinking’, or not being able to think clearly.
SARAH DINGLE: At the King Island meeting, Sarah Laurie even drew a connection between wind turbines and autistic behaviour.
SARAH LAURIE: So people with autism are known to be particularly noise sensitive and there’s certainly children with autism and families with more than one child with autism who have a real difficult time when the turbines start operating.
SARAH DINGLE: For beef farmer Chris Porter, there’s no doubt what King Island’s decision should be.
CHRIS PORTER: If there is the remotest possibility the health of King Islanders are going to be affected, that property values are going to be affected I would think the most reasonable proposition would be that you don’t do it.
SARAH DINGLE: Professor of public health, Simon Chapman says there’s no credible peer reviewed scientific reports which prove that wind farms harm human health.
SIMON CHAPMAN: There have been actually 17 reports, reviews I should say, which have looked at all the evidence to date when they were published, and none of those 17 reviews have said that wind turbines are harmful to health.
SARAH DINGLE: Sarah Laurie is currently the subject of a complaint to the National Health and Medical Research Council.
The complaint alleges she’s conducting research involving humans without oversight by an ethics committee and she’s having direct clinical contact with individuals, despite the fact that her medical registration as a doctor lapsed in 2006.
Dr Laurie denies that she’s conducting research but she’s told Background Briefing she does tell people who think they’ve been affected by wind turbines to keep health diaries and check their blood pressure.
SARAH LAURIE: They’re doing it for their own benefit.
SARAH DINGLE: At your suggestion and they’re sharing the results with you.
SARAH LAURIE: For their self-care and for sharing with their own doctors.
SARAH DINGLE: The National Health and Medical Research Council says it doesn’t necessarily make public the outcome of any complaint investigation.
King Islanders will vote on whether the wind farm proposal should proceed to feasibility from the 7th of June.
TONY EASTLEY: And you can hear the full investigation into Wind Turbine Syndrome on Background Briefing this Sunday on RN.
EDITOR’S NOTE (24 May 2013): King Islanders will have their say in a questionnaire they’ll have ten days to complete once it is released on 7th June. Our original broadcast item incorrectly said it would be on the 6th of June. The transcript has been corrected.
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