Member of the Wind Alliance, Gwenda Allgood was among about 70 people who attended a public hearing held by a senate committee on wind turbines at Portland earlier this month.
It was the first hearing held by the committee, which was formed late last year to inquire into the application of regulatory governance and economic impact of wind turbines.
Ms Allgood, who went to the hearing independent of her duties as an Ararat Rural City councillor, said the conference featured fascinating and robust discussions.
“I put in a submission on my own behalf as a member of the Wind Alliance and Senator (Anne) Urquhart sent back a reply asking if I would come along,” Ms Allgood said.
“My impression coming away was what a difference wind turbines could make to Portland. I know that at Ararat what a great thing it has been for us.
“Keppel Prince, the Portland company that made our wind turbines at Challicum Hills, are saying that these turbines need to be made in Australia and that would be the saviour of Portland.
“If that was the case, Dan McKinna (Keppel Prince assistant general manager) talked about being able to accommodate another 50 to 100 people to work in the factory and that would make a huge difference to Portland. The thing is they have got all the resources there to do this manufacturing.
“We know the unemployment rate is going up and so if they could get more turbines coming out of Portland, that would have an impact on this area as well.”
Both sides of the wind farm argument were covered, with staunch opponents and supporters of the alternative energy resource voicing their opinions.
Representatives of the Ararat Rural City, as well as Glenelg and Pyrenees Shire councils were in attendance.
The select committee into wind turbines was also attended by Queensland National senator Matthew Canavan, Western Australian Liberal Chris Back, independents Nick Xenophon and John Madigan, Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm, Family First senator Bob Day and Tasmanian ALP senator Anne Urquhart.
Glenelg Shire councillor Gilbert Wilson said at the hearing the loss of 100 jobs at the Portland manufacturer Keppel Prince last year had a devastating impact on the city, with retailers hit particularly hard.
The turbine manufacturer made the decision due to uncertainty over the federal government’s renewable energy target (RET) although the future of the initiative is expected to be clarified soon.
Ms Allgood said those opposed to wind farms had the opportunity to present their argument as well.
A panel of south-west property owners, who have battled against wind farms for the best part of a decade, told those attending that ‘living near wind turbines is hell’.
Derrinallum farmer Hamish Cumming addressed the senate panel about his research regarding the impact of wind turbines on native birdlife.
He said the level of community disenchantment with wind farms was understated.
“There was a survey a few months ago in a NSW newspaper and another at the same time in a northern Victorian newspaper and they both found that roughly 80 per cent of those who responded were against wind farms in their area,” Mr Cumming said.
“The wind farm companies put this message out there that everything is rosy in the south-west, that the majority of farmers support wind farms when they know that is not the case.”
– with the Warrnambool Standard
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