A Collector resident has threatened his neighbours with legal action if a proposed 63-turbine wind farm goes ahead.
“I’ve put (all of) the potential landholders on notice that if they proceed (with contracts) I will sue them on the basis they are causing a nuisance… to the quiet enjoyment of my land,” Tony Hodgson said.
He has engaged Sydney law firm Bartier Perry to act on his behalf. His legal case is simple: as the lessors of the land, turbine hosts are responsible for any adverse effects associated with their operation. In other words, by authorising a land use that causes a nuisance they are essentially endorsing it and are therefore liable.
Mr Hodgson has a number of concerns surrounding noise and health issues.
He also said the proposed $350 million development had already “demonstrably devalued” his land, slashing 35 per cent off its previous market value.
The potential battle is symptomatic of divisions that now run deep within the once tight-knit community.
Mr Hodgson was one of 41 speakers at a Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) meeting at Collector on Tuesday and Wednesday. The PAC will decide the development.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, local fire chief Ron Edwards told the gathering he now had to coordinate emergency rescue efforts because some of his volunteers – many of whom had been friends for decades prior – now refused to work with one another.
Emotions ran high as people spoke passionately for and against, at times even boiling over as speakers were heckled. Props and placards lined the walls.
While property prices weren’t the only topic under discussion, they were a major talking point on the evening.
Several speakers, including Upper Lachlan Shire councillor Malcolm Barlow, called for compensation.
Cr Barlow quoted four Crookwell region farmers who’d had their biggest assets significantly devalued by wind farms.
He also argued the drop in land prices would inevitably push up rates and called on the commissioners to “be ground breakers”.
“(What we’re talking about) is people’s life savings and their livelihoods,” Cr Barlow said.
“If (this development) is approved make (the proponents) pay compensation to land owners whose properties have been devalued.”
Other residents called on energy company RATCH Australia to be forced to purchase devalued land at its original market value.
Concerns were also raised about the noise report (which some believed was either inaccurate or lacking credibility); unresolved health issues (especially the impact of infrasound on the human body); potential seismic disruption (caused by vibrations); the effect blinking lights would have on sleep patterns; how the site would be rehabilitated once the wind farm had been decommissioned; and the potential to devalue the region’s biggest asset – the landscape.
The proponent was criticised for the way it conducted its community consultation and many disputed the methods used to gauge the level of support.
Mr Edwards warned the crowd wind turbines made it impossible to use water bombing aircraft during a bushfire. Others worried the blades would fan flames.
Concerns were also raised about the potential for ‘turbulence,’ given the density of fog that often blankets the area.
However, not everybody was opposed.
Crookwell district grazier Charlie Prell told the audience wind farms could be invaluable to the region.
Not only could royalties for hosting turbines underpin agriculture but the establishment of a community enhancement fund (structured like the Veolia Mulwaree Trust) could deliver benefits for decades.
He also pointed out it represented economic growth; for the past two years he has been receiving royalties from a Spanish energy company.
Mr Prell argued the landscape was permanently changing but that the turbines would help reduce carbon emissions and therefore improve the environment overall.
He also believed people sometimes made false connections when it came to wind farm related illnesses.
When he first had turbines installed he developed what is commonly referred to as “wind farm syndrome”. After seeing a doctor, he realised he actually suffered from an anxiety disorder.
He asked the PAC to approve the development but make the proponent contribute significantly more to a community trust.
Garry Poile believed turbines would not devalue the area because people liked the look of them and associated them with positive environmental outcomes. This was evident, he said, by their prominence in the background of television advertising.
People also commonly stopped at Lake George to admire them.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding