The man who will chair Tony Abbott’s business advisory committee is among a group of country landholders threatening to sue a neighbouring farmer for “substantial damages” if their health or property values are harmed by his agreement to allow wind turbines to built on his property.
Maurice Newman, former chairman of the Australian Stock Exchange and the ABC and chair of Abbott’s three person panel of business advisors, was one of seven families in the Crookwell area who signed a legal letter to local farmer Charlie Prell threatening to sue if the wind farm went ahead and caused them nuisance or harm, including to their health or property values.
The letter urged Prell to seek legal advice as to whether he could break his contract with the wind farm proponent Union Fenosa.
Newman last week described subsidies for renewable energy as “a crime against the people” because higher energy costs hit poorer households the hardest and, in his opinion, the science of global warming was “somewhat in tatters” so there was no longer any logical reason to have them.
The letter, from law firm Piper Alderman on behalf of Newman and the other landholders, states, “Our clients wish to inform you…that they consider that the proposed wind farms, if erected, are likely to constitute a common law nuisance, and therefore an infringement of their rights as neighbouring landowners to have their reasonable enjoyment of their land not disrupted by the wind farm on your land. Our clients also wish you to be in no doubt that they will if necessary take steps to protect their rights, all of which rights are reserved, including to seek compensation for infringement of those rights.”
“…we suggest that, if wind turbines commenced operation on your land, the likely impact on our clients and other neighbours will constitute actionable nuisance for which you will be liable and they would be entitled to recover substantial damages from you.”
The letter says such a lawsuit has not been taken before regarding a wind farm because “of the reluctance of rural people to sue their neighbours, rather than any comment on the law” and warns “please note that our clients are not so reluctant and are ready, willing and able to litigate in order to enforce their proprietary rights to be protected from nuisance caused by you and other hosts.”
The letter also warns Prell that the wind farm operator might not be able to remove the turbines and “remediate’ his property if it suffers financial difficulty “for example because of a change in government energy policy, technical difficulties with the wind farm, or obsolescence.”
Prell says he has no intention of breaking his legal contract with the company, which will help him secure a regular income and “drought proof” his property.
But Prell, who will speak at a pro wind farm rally held in central Canberra on Tuesday, says he is concerned that wind farm projects that could help rural communities like his own might not proceed under a Coalition government.
The Coalition is under intense pressure to back a moratorium on new wind farms and to wind back or scrap the renewable energy target, both from some of it’s own MPs and Senators and from the active anti wind farm lobby that is holding a rally outside Parliament House on Tuesday.
The Coalition has already promised to impose new continuous noise monitoring rules on windfarms that the industry says will inflict crippling costs and provide no useful information but several MPs and Senators are pressing for a moratorium on new wind farms and a scaling back or scrapping of the renewable energy target.
Industry spokesman Ian Macfarlane says the backlash against wind farms is so strong that the new noise policy is the only way to calm “community divisions” .
“If we don’t do this my concern is that the issues around wind farms have the potential to escalate into a community divide similar to coal seam gas,” he told Guardian Australia.
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