Debate has ramped up over the potential impacts a proposed $200 million wind farm could have on a rural community on the New South Wales southern tablelands.
The Planning Assessment Commission held a public meeting in Crookwell on Thursday to consider the Biala Wind Farm being proposed south-west of the town.
Newtricity wants to build up to 31 turbines, each up to 185 metres high, sparking concerns about potential impacts on local birdlife and the amenity of the area.
Nine of the 10 speakers at the meeting opposed the project.
The proposed site is less than 8 kilometres from two existing wind farms, and several locals who opposed the project have told the ABC there had been less resistance to this development because they were tired of trying to fight wind projects in the district.
Concerns turbine height could be ‘game changer’
Crookwell farmer and former Upper Lachlan Shire councillor Malcolm Barlow said the structures were much higher than other existing ones in the district.
“Which is about 40 or 50 metres taller than the tallest ones we already have. It is an enormous game changer,” Mr Barlow said.
Jennifer and Ken Hewitt are the closest adjoining neighbours to the proposed site, and said they were concerned the wind farm would impinge on their farming operations.
Ms Hewitt said she was worried about the rise in traffic volumes in the area during the construction period.
“We’re on both sides of the [Grabben Gullen] road, and we have to move the stock back and forth across the road to manage it,” she said.
“The road is a very busy road. It’s the main road to Canberra, so we’re very concerned as to any increased traffic on that, because it’s very difficult at this point in time to stop traffic as it is.”
Farmer nervous about planned transmission line
Lucy Knight farms near Gunning, about 25 kilometres south of the proposed site, and said her property was among a number being canvassed for hosting the transmission line leading to the project.
She said it had left her and other nearby landholders uncertain about the potential impacts.
“We don’t know where the line will go, and having been the original preferred option, we’re nervous about any impact,” Ms Knight said.
“It would’ve put potentially 7 kilometres through our property and, at a broader scale, potentially run 26 kilometres of transmission line through a really productive and very beautiful part of our region.”
Wind farm subject to ‘very rigorous’ assessment
Crookwell farmer and Australian Wind Alliance spokesman Charlie Prell said he could empathise with people’s concern about the transmission line.
But he said he was confident the strict conditions being imposed on the wind farm, which has been recommended for approval by the Department of Planning and Environment, would address all concerns raised about the turbines.
“There’s 47 conditions. They’re very, very comprehensive and I believe they address all of the concerns that have been raised by opponents to this and other wind farms for that matter,” Mr Prell said.
“The department has made some telling statements in relation to the landscape aspect of this wind farm.”
Newtricity spokeswoman Anne-Marie Lavery said the transmission line would only be built on properties where there was support from the owner.
“We have to talk to landowners and get them to agree for the transmission line to go through their properties, and in that case we then take an easement over those properties,” Ms Lavery said.
“It’s not going to go through anybody else’s land or anybody’s land that doesn’t want to have it.”
Ms Lavery said there had been a “very rigorous” assessment of the project, and the company would adopt measures to reduce the visual impact.