With public submissions for the controversial Rye Park wind farm proposal closing yesterday (June 23), local resident Jim Field took this reporter on a tour of the countryside to provide a first-hand account of his concerns.
Now in his eighties, and the proprietor of family business Yass Earth Movers, Jim owns three properties in the affected region and has regularly voiced his dissatisfaction with the proposal to construct 109 wind turbines.
As we stepped into his Toyota Hilux and drove northwards along Cooks Hill Road, Jim began to outline his apprehensions.
“My company wouldn’t do a job like this because it does too much damage to the environment,” Jim said.
“Years ago they brought in a law that said you couldn’t clear any country steeper than 18 degrees. And a couple of hundred acres of this land is virgin timber and steeper than 18 degrees and if our company cleared just a dozen acres, we’d probably go to jail.”
Jim stated that the current proposal would result in the clearing of almost 200 acres of virgin scrub and over 600 acres altogether, as massive roads are built to transport equipment, power transmission lines are installed, and the tower sites are cleared.
The countryside is lush and green, with rolling hills, streams, and grazing sheep, as Jim begins to point at the ridges surrounding the valley.
“That’s where the turbines will go,” he said.
“And they’ll be 157 metres tall, which is taller than the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It’ll look visually disgusting and you’ll see them from 50 kilometres away.”
As we passed through several gates, we saw areas of massive soil erosion, and the potential for this erosion to worsen through the proposed construction activities worried Jim.
“When they level everything out for roads and towers, and it rains, it’ll run off and down the sides, causing massive erosion. Once that starts it doesn’t stop, and it creeps up the hill.
“It will also silt up the dams and creeks and threaten the endangered pygmy perch and the bell frogs.
“They put a gas pipeline in here 40 years ago and on Google Earth you can still see the track, the area will never recover.”
Continuing our trip towards Rye Park we see a farm that displays a large “No Wind Turbines” sign.
“Many people here are very upset about this because they’ll have to live with it in their backyards for the rest of their lives. And even though the minimum recommended distance from homesteads is 2 kilometres, in some cases the turbines are closer.”
Jim tells of a Sydney family which recently bought a property to experience quiet country living and will now have turbines just 1.5 kilometres away.
“They’re devastated, and we’ve had many tears at our Rye Park Action Group meetings. This proposal will totally bugger the village.”
On the way back, Jim recounts other common concerns that include: possible health effects, annoying noise, diminished land values, birds flying into blades, bushfire control risks, and the enormous level of taxpayer subsidisation that is required to install the turbines.
While the argument in relation to this form of sustainable energy is controversial, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment will have the final say and residents hope the decision makers will have considered both sides of the story.