A public hearing has been told a proposed wind farm in the New South Wales central tablelands has been so divisive it has destroyed the fabric of the local community.
The Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) is considering the Crudine Ridge project, between Mudgee and Bathurst, which involves building up to 77 turbines near the areas of Pyramul, Sallys Flat and Turondale.
The closest township is the historic village of Sofala, about 10 kilometres to the south-east.
The Department of Planning and Environment has received 120 submissions, and has recommended the PAC give the wind farm conditional approval.
The commission held a hearing at Pyramul on Wednesday and 20 speakers spoke against it, citing potential noise, visual and health impacts.
Among them were Andrew Hundy, a third-generation farmer in the area who is concerned about the potential visual impacts.
Mr Hundy said about 30 of the proposed wind turbines would be visible from his property near Sallys Flat.
He said the structures – planned to be about 160 metres high – would be 20 metres higher than the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
He said this would have a major impact on his family’s quality of life.
“Effectively, we’ll have a metropolitan-type development placed upon us two to two-and-a-half kilometres away,” Mr Hundy said.
“We’ll have elevated noise from the project and we’ll have a CBD landscape.”
Mr Hundy’s sister, Sue Lane, is an intensive care nurse and has raised concerns about the potential health risks the wind farm could pose.
Ms Lane said the project had created large divisions in the community.
“Essentially people around this community have agreed on many things. They go to bushfires, they fight together to save their land, and yet you now have a divided community,” Ms Lane said.
“It has destroyed this community.”
While the majority of people at the Pyramul hearing spoke against the Crudine Ridge wind project, several landholders expressed enthusiasm about it.
Brendan Cole lives near Sallys Flat and is set to host up to seven turbines, and said many farmers saw the benefits of a new industry in the area.
“I don’t think it’s majority opposition at all. There’s big support for renewable energy around the country, and there are people here speaking at the meeting not from nearby,” Mr Cole said.
“Most of the farmers involved with infrastructure are in favour of it because of the obvious benefit.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a majority against it all, but there was a majority of speakers today against the proposal.”
Landholder Elwyn Croake said he would be able to see 50 to 80 per cent of the turbines from his property but was unfazed about the visual impacts.
He said the financial compensation would enable farmers to improve their infrastructure and help reverse population decline in the area.
“This community’s slowly going backwards,” Mr Croake said.
“When we were kids here 40-odd years ago, everything was happening, there were always dances and something happening.
“But the social side of things have gone, the community’s slowly dying and the input of extra funds, jobs, people into any community, and infrastructure, they’re doing roads up and things, it’s all got to help.”
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