South Gippsland Shire Council looks unlikely to commit to protecting the amenity of people living next to the Bald Hills Wind Farm if Planning Minister Matthew Guy fails to enforce noise restrictions.
The 52 turbine project is yet to be constructed near Tarwin Lower but neighbours have submitted a petition with 109 signatures, calling on council to ensure the turbines do not produce excessive noise.
Council is responsible for enforcing all permit restrictions except noise, which is under the minister’s jurisdiction.
Councillors will consider the petition at tomorrow’s (Wednesday’s) council meeting in Leongatha, but the recommendation of council officers is to refer any noise issues to the responsible authority: Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy.
If he is not forthcoming, the recommendation calls for council to reconsider its position.
Mr Guy was last week accused of hiding documentation relating to noise levels that would ensure the wind farm complied with regulations.
Cr Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks said council should write to the minister to ask for the information. Mayor Cr Jim Fawcett agreed.
Council was last Wednesday addressed by wind farm neighbour Don Fairbrother and Cheryl Wragg, senior advisor-energy/industry to Victorian Senator John Madigan.
They gave council a letter from the Victorian Department of Planning and Community Development stating the department believed 11 turbines would not comply with noise restrictions.
Mr Fairbrother said while council could say it was not responsible for enforcing noise compliance, “I do not believe council can walk away from the fact that you were elected to the position to represent ratepayers”.
He urged council to support the petition.
Mr Fairbrother told The Star the company behind the project, Bald Hills Wind Farm, had admitted three turbines would not comply with noise regulations, because their noise consultant Marshall Day stated the “three turbines will be operated in noise optimised mode to limit noise impacts”.
“And they still expect to get renewable energy certificates,” Mr Fairbrother said.
Ms Wragg said authorities had failed to adequately regulate noise generated by wind farms in Victoria.
She said 50 of the 128 turbines at the Waubra wind farm had to run in noise optimised mode to reduce noise levels.
Ms Wragg queried the State Government’s commitment to regulating the Bald Hills Wind Farm. She said she recently requested to inspect reports relating to noise at Bald Hills during a visit to the planning permit registry, but said those reports had been removed from the file.
“Yesterday, Bald Hills residents went down to have look at it and the same thing happened,” she said.
“The minister is hiding the information that is needed to bring the facility into compliance.”
Mr Guy told The Star: “These claims are legally actionable and are indicative of the wild conspiracy theories that Senator Madigan’s office is shamefully peddling to many people in country Victoria.”
Ms Wragg called on council to ask Minister Guy why this information was being withheld.
She said council could be exposed to legal repercussions for not acting to protect residents.
Ms Wragg claimed turbines at the Toora Wind Farm were not complying with noise regulations and said council should have reported this to the Australian Government’s Clean Energy Regulator.
If council was to appoint an acoustic engineer and legal representation to contest the noise issue at the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal, council could face at least $100,000 in costs.
Under the current planning permit, the wind farm must be completed by August 19, 2015.
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