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Sparks fly at Dundonnell wind farm hearing

Misleading documents, environmental concerns, questionable research techniques and health and noise issues were among the points raised by angry community members and environmental experts at the Dundonnell Wind Farm Project Public Hearing on Tuesday night.

Moyne Shire Council hosted proceedings at the Mortlake Golf Club, with all councillors, chief executive officer David Madden and a host of council officers present.

Last month, Moyne Shire Council invited local community members to make submissions regarding the project to help council form a submission to Victorian Minister for Planning Richard Wynne.

Of the 29 submissions to council since the proposal was opened for public comment on July 13, 27 have been against the project, with just two in favour.

The Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning (DELWP) has three planning applications in front of it, one for the wind energy facility itself, one for a 38km transmission line and another for a substation located at the Mortlake Gas Power Station.

Dundonnell wind farm developer Trustpower also submitted an Environmental Effects Statement (EES).

Trustpower wind generation development manager Rontheo Van Zyl kicked off proceedings reminding those present that contact to build a wind farm had been made by local residents.

“The key aspects of the Dundonnell wind farm was that it was initiated by a group of landholders,” he said.

“We have strong local community support and see us becoming part of the community.”

Trustpower wind generation project manager Chris Righetti said the developer had contacted all six neighbouring dwellings within two kilometres and a lengthy involvement with the project had enabled the company to better understand the situation.

“The EES has given us the understanding to know Dundonnell back to front,” he said.

“There are not many more suitable spots for a wind farm than Dundonnell.”

However, others did not share his view.

Woorndoo’s Sue Mudford said while she liked the progression of wind energy, she did not think Dundonnell was the correct place for a wind farm.

“I’m not against wind energy, but I don’t support renewable energy infrastructure, particularly a wind farm in this particular location,” she said.

Penshurst’s Keith Staff, a member of the Brolga Recovery Group (BRG) and Kanawinka Geopark agreed.

“It is a completely inappropriate location for a wind farm,” he said.

“To put it in perspective, imagine the light towers at the MCG. They are 75 metres high.

“The proposal for these wind turbines is 165 metres, the visual amenity will be destroyed.”

Mr Staff said neither the BRG or Kanawinka Geopark were consulted on the project, with “misleading and inaccurate assessments” in the EES.

Another sticking point with objectors was the impact on local flora and fauna, in particular the brolga.

Mr Righetti argued the project had “developed forward within the brolga development guidelines” and that it was the “most assessment ever undertaken at a wind farm”.

Darlington’s Hamish Cumming said the EES report revealed a different story, with just stating 40 hours per year (0.46 per cent) of brolga utilization included.

“There is no scientific study that would accept decision-making sampling as low as 0.46 per cent of available data,” he said.

“It is not logical, sensible or ethical to determine the impact on a species without any scientific basis.

“That alone should be enough to disregard the EES document.”

Mr Van Zyl said any accusations of inaccuracies in the EES would be scutinised by the Victorian Planning Minister’s panel.

“Allegations against Trustpower are completely false,” he said.

“We have the upmost integrity and never would we instruct our experts to omit any data.”

Quarry operators WA Molan and Sons’ Peter Molan was a lone figure in defending the project, citing the benefits to the local community.

“It would enable us to expand our experience in the marketplace, which would lead to employing locals,” he said.

Mr Molan said he estimated WA Molan and Sons could employ three to four more people in the area if the project went ahead, with six other companies in a similar position.

Moyne Shire Council will now prepare a submission to the Minister.