September 19, 2013

Pressure builds on Coalition government for wind farms health study

By SEAN McCOMISH, Sept. 19, 2013,

The Abbott government is eyeing stricter wind farm laws that could see round-the-clock monitoring of noise levels and a new investigation into the supposed health effects of wind turbines.

Wannon MP Dan Tehan is facing pressure from anti-wind campaigners across Wannon to deliver on a promise to carry out a study on whether or not wind farms such as the one at Macarthur cause “wind turbine syndrome”.

Industry Minister Ian MacFarlane is facing pressure to live up to the commitment made last year that a Coalition government would “ensure comprehensive research is completed into the possible health effects of wind farms on residents and communities”.

“He’s made it clear in his intentions that a study take place,” Mr Tehan told The Standard. “I pushed for it last year.”

Mr Tehan met with anti-wind campaigners around the Macarthur in the lead up to his re-election campaign and has so far walked a fine line between both sides of the debate.

Wind opponents and bloggers have celebrated the Coalition’s election victory and are now calling on Liberal MPs to match their empathy with actions.

Asked which agency would undertake the study, Mr Tehan said it was yet to be decided.

“It would either be the National Health and Medical Council (NHMRC) or another agency,” he said.

“I can’t see why anyone should fear a transparent and detailed study into the potential health effects of wind farms.

“My personal opinion is that I’m not a scientist or a doctor – this is something the experts need to understand.”

If the NHMRC does carry out the report, its findings are unlikely to be accepted by wind opponents, who want a specially-convened panel of medical experts and acousticians to carry it out.

“The NHMRC only reviews literature, they don’t do research,” Macarthur resident Annie Gardner said.

“The second alternative option would be an industry panel that would consist of health professionals.”

She argued that Macarthur’s larger, three- megawatt wind turbines warranted a specific investigation.

Meanwhile, industry group VicWind said proposals for real-time noise monitoring would add more red tape to wind farms already forced to meet local, state and federal government requirements.

“It wouldn’t be practical at all,” spokesman Andrew Bray said.

“The level of background noise in windy areas is very high and it would be hard to separate turbine noise from background noise.”

Mr Bray said wind farms already had to meet strict noise levels as part of their permits to operate.

“It adds an extra level of bureaucracy that we really don’t need.”

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