An independent study of wind farms and noise is among the first environmental priorities of the Abbott government.
Incoming Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said he would begin talking to wind farm operators before parliament sits in November to discuss the scope of the inquiry and a law to establish real time monitoring.
The move follows discussions with Victorian backbencher Dan Tehan and West Australian senator Chris Back last Friday in which the pair sought assurances from Mr Macfarlane he would act on the Coalition’s commitment to conduct an inquiry into wind farms, which are opposed by many farmers.
Mr Tehan has been under pressure from anti-wind-farm advocates in his rural seat over AGL Energy’s large Macarthur project.
Sydney radio announcer Alan Jones has questioned Mr Macfarlane’s commitment to implementing the Coalition policy.
“The point is… a commitment was given of a health study [and] I expect that commitment to be honoured,” Mr Tehan said.
“I have had constituents come to me and say they are being made sick and as their representative, it is beholden on me to ensure there is a study.
“Obviously, we have been waiting to see who the relevant ministers will be but now it’s clear, I would hope that they will look to start implementing Coalition policies.”
A spokeswoman for Mr Macfarlane said he had given a commitment to Mr Tehan the study would occur quickly and consultations would now commence with wind companies.
This year, the South Australian Environment Protection Authority monitored 11 wind farms and found infrasound levels were no greater than in other urban and rural environments.
The Coalition has indicated it will ask the National Health and Medical Research Council to conduct the study but will establish an independent scientific committee to do so if this is not possible.
The Coalition’s plans for wind farms have led one operator, Pacific Hydro, to propose a compromise to establish a pilot noise-monitoring scheme at its Cape Bridgewater facility.
“We would be concerned if it was rushed through without fully considering the issue and how it can be put in place,” he said.
“There are so many other sources of noises in the environment and just looking at a stream of data will not tell you what the reason is for a spike.
“It would create a whole new bureaucracy with specialist acousticians looking through millions and millions [of] bytes of data.
“And you would also have people sitting at home on their laptops looking at real-time data and seeing spikes and sending off complaints to the minister.”
Hepburn Wind chairman Simon Holmes a Court said there was a danger that noise monitoring would not solve the public concerns around wind farms.
“Industry should welcome research,” he said. “The problems with the Coalition’s wind policies is that neither will placate the loud and angry anti-wind lobby.”
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