Residents of villages east of Lake George near Tarago erupted in anger at an information day about the Jupiter wind farm proposed by Spanish-Australian company EPYC, accusing the group of not being open enough about the project.
Farmers and tree changers whose land lies next to potential wind farms confronted EPYC staff on Saturday at the Tarago Town Hall and asked why the company was not releasing information on where the turbines would be placed.
Anger was palatable as a resident opposition group stood outside and handed out anti-wind farm documents. The $400 million wind farm over 12,000 hectares is set to have at least 100 wind turbines up to 110 metres high, with three 63-metre rotor blades.
The company started negotiations with land owner “hosts” across the Lake Bathurst, Tarago, Mayfield, Boro, Mount Fairy and Manar communities at the start of 2012, hoping to accrue 25 owners in total to be paid $10,000 a year for each tower.
Graham Hawke, 70, said some residents including himself felt so strongly they were considering class action over the affect the farms could have on land values. “It’s one of the things we will be looking at, I think you have to look at it because of the land devaluation,” Mr Hawke said.
Mr Hawke’s Tarago property, on which he lives with his wife, lies down from rolling hills next door. He said he was depending on selling his home to pay for their aged care and was worried his neighbours might allow their hills to be dotted with turbines.
Electrician Chris Gabler bought his plot 12 months ago and said he had no idea the area was part of EPYC’s Jupiter project area. “I had no idea and we wouldn’t have bought it if I had known there was going to be a wind farm right next to me,” he said.
Before Saturday’s meeting where questioners engulfed three EPYC employees standing in front of paper information boards, Mr Gabler said: “There’s been no consultation and no one’s come out to tell us about the farms.”
The company started signing hosting contracts with residents in April 2012, about the same time it dropped 184 information packs into local letter boxes.
Many residents, including Le-Genre Katrivessis, whose farm is directly next to a wind farm area, said they never received the information. When a company representative came to her door this year Ms Katrivessis said it was the first she had heard of it. “So they say that they put out the packs, but to what areas I don’t know,” she said.
Others were concerned about the divisions that had already arisen in the community. “It completely divides people, rumour goes around that someone is hosting and then everyone is talking, because we can’t find out,” Mount Fairy resident Jane Rotgans said.
She said the uncertainly over who was hosting was because ofclauses in the farm-hosting agreements. “We believe there is a gag clause so people who sign up and are hosting can’t tell anyone,” Ms Rotgans said. Another resident, who did not want to be named, said her neighbour who had signed up to be a host had stopped popping in for tea.
When asked whether the agreements between the company and land owners contained confidentiality agreements, EPYC business manager Shahroo Mohajerani said: “It’s normal for a legal document to have some confidentiality clause but people have talked and that’s fine.”
Palerang Council mayor Pete Harrison said he thought the meeting was a step forward and opposition to the project “was not universal” in the community. But he said the consultation process should have started earlier.
“It’s been a problem with us all along. I’ve only had one meeting with them and our council staff and certainly in that particular meeting I expressed my concern that their consulting process was wanting quite seriously,” Mr Harrison said.
A EPYC company statement said the turbines could generate enough energy to power 150,000 homes and “will improve infrastructure in the area such as road and bridge upgrades and other community facilities”.
A spokesperson for the EPYC has previously said they are complying with mandated community consultation requirements. Set up in 2010, the company has seven employees in Australia and has never constructed a wind farm before, although it has other farms in the planning stages for areas in NSW.
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