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Wind farm approval deepens bitter community divide

The decision to approve a $200m wind farm development near Blayney in the NSW central west has further divided the community.

The approval of the Flyers Creek wind farm near Blayney yesterday by the NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) has both pleased and angered residents.

The $200m development proposal by Infigen Energy includes 42 wind turbines, access tracks, an electrical substation and collection system.

Patina Schneider is a member of the Flyers Creek Turbine Awareness Group, and says the PAC’s approval of the project is disappointing.

“It’s angered the community out here. It’s not surprising, we didn’t expect any different,” she says.

“It’s a systemic thing within the government departments. They’re not listening to the people of this state.”

Ms Schneider says the alleged health problems caused by the wind farms are the main concern of residents in the area.

“The wind companies know of the problems, and they’re now building to what the department allows them to build. If you can get away with something, you will.

“We really have to identify who is the responsible authority that’s allowing this to happen,” says Ms Schneider.

“Knowing the impacts, there is no way I’d have one on my property or near it. I would not inflict on my neighbours what these people are about to inflict on their neighbours.”

Despite the health concerns associated with wind farms, the National Health and Medical Research Council released a draft review into wind farms last month and found no conclusive evidence of impacts from noise, shadow flicker or electromagnetic radiation.

Kim Masters owns land that is scheduled to house some of the wind turbines.

He says he is happy the project has been approved.

“This development is no different to any other development. In recent times, Orange has had a pipeline from the Macquarie River approved; there were people there who supported it and people who opposed it. This is no different.

“People can oppose a development like this, but at the end of the day, where would they like their electricity to come from?” he says.

Mr Masters denies there will be any health impacts by having wind turbines on his property.

“These turbines have been proven around the world where they’ve been operating. People have been living next to them for years,” he says.

“When you break it down, you have a fan that’s no different to a fan you have in your house. You have a machine at the end of it that generates electricity.

“They’re on a larger scale, but that’s what the machine is. There’s no difference.”

Mr Masters says his pro-wind farm stance isn’t being influenced by the fact he’ll be paid by Infigen Energy to have turbines on his property.

With the threat of legal action looming, Mr Masters says he is perplexed by the prospect of having to go to court.

“These turbines are located along ridgelines in remote areas. To the north of the project, you have (the village of) Forest Reefs and they are the bulk of the people that are against the project,” he says.

“I can’t understand how legal action could go ahead if the Department of Planning and all other government bodies approved the project.”

With the handing-down of the PAC’s decision yesterday, Ms Schneider says the impact of the approval is far-reaching.

“This community is in tatters. The sad part about it is that it has split families and friends.

“It’s unbelievable.”

Patina Schneider and Kim Masters spoke to the ABC’s Dugald Saunders.