A neighbour of the Gullen Range Wind Farm has called on the state government to launch an inquiry into both the development and its approval after it was revealed last week that the majority of the 73 turbines had been erected in incorrect locations.
Kialla resident Humphrey Price- Jones said any turbines built, anywhere other than the precise site of their approval, should not be commissioned or ever be allowed to operate.
“The really exasperating thing is that since construction started on this development started I have been requesting an officer from the Department of Planning and Infrastructure come out here and see exactly what has been happening because it has been obvious, almost from the word go, that they were not in compliance with construction conditions that had been imposed upon them,” he told Post.
“The department cannot argue ignorance here because I have been pointing this out for months now; that these things are being miss-sited.
“When it finally admitted (the majority) had been miss-sited it started to consult with… its legal team.
“Since it started having what it described as ‘in-depth conversations’, 26 turbines have been built at the northern end of the site.
“While this was going on, on a daily basis, I either rang or emailed the head of compliance for the Department of Planning, requesting and then demanding that a halt be called to construction.
“Now, any reasonable person would have to consider the possibility that the developer was doing this in order to thumb its nose at the department and everyone else and be able to say ‘well, we’ve built it now, what are you going to do about it?’… “(But) as far as I’m concerned, none of these turbines should be commissioned; none of the turbines that have been positioned incorrectly should not be allowed to operate.”
The Department of Planning and Infrastructure last week requested construction stop on several key turbines after it was revealed the majority had been erected in different locations to those which were originally approved.
Investigations are ongoing into precisely how many have been moved but the department says this breach is serious.
The discrepancies vary from about one metre to 187 metres from the original locations.
Some have also been moved closer to residential dwellings.
The proponent – Chinese based energy company Goldwind – voluntarily complied with the request however it maintained there had not been any breaches, arguing that the approval had scope for ‘minor relocations’.
The company has been warned it could face legal action over the debacle but Mr Price-Jones believes the only way forward is a public inquiry.
He told the Post he feared government lawyers would seek to vindicate the department and avoid costly litigation by coming to an early compromise with the developer.
Mr Price-Jones has been in constant contact with the department, reporting his concerns, but he has not been satisfied with its response.
He says staff were often either ignorant of what was going on or incompetent. He also believes the process is corrupt.
“The whole thing borders on being unbelievable that this can be allowed to happen with a development that has caused so much distress and so much of an impact on the local population,” he said.
“People have seen their properties devalued, in some cases to such an extent that they have been rendered unsalable; they’ve seen their landscapes destroyed; they’ve had the very reason they live where they live taken away from them; and all the time myself and a few other people have been pointing this out to the Department of Planning, who have studiously ignored the misbehaviour of the developer and the fact that this government, prior to its election, said it would bring the community back into planning. That has been proved to be a complete lie… The whole thing is a disgrace.”
Mr Price-Jones said Burrinjuck MP Katrina Hodgkinson had put in a lot of hard work on behalf of the community but that so far her efforts had been fruitless.
Member for Goulburn Pru Goward has also expressed her concern but has been unable to affect the outcome.
“The fact the developer couldn’t even be trusted to build (these turbines) where they were supposed to be built, how can we now trust them to be structurally sound or that any other thing regarding this development has been done in any way that meets compliance?” he queried.
“It is mind boggling, especially when the department has been informed of these problems over and over again!” CORRECTION: On Monday, the Goulburn Post reported that 73 turbines at the Gullen Range Wind Farm had been erected in different locations to those which were originally approved by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure. This was incorrect.
The majority of the turbines were incorrectly placed but investigations are ongoing to establish precisely how many.
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