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AFL chief Gillon McLachlan to tackle wind farm in court

After a year of campaigning against a proposed $700 million wind farm, AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan today begins a legal fight to protect his childhood home before a full-bench court in Adelaide.

Mr McLachlan’s is one of four appeals to be heard together against Tilt Renewables Australia’s 114-turbine Palmer Wind Farm.

The planned development will stand on the ranges between Palmer, Tungkillo and Sanderston, 65km east of Adelaide, after approval by the Mid Murray Council on December 18.

Yesterday, landowners, court officials and lawyers toured 18 sites that will be affected by the 375MW renewable energy project, ahead of hearings before three judges of the Environment, Resources and Develop­ment Court.

Before today’s appeal hearing, Mr McLachlan said he was “frankly heartbroken that this land will be forever marred by enormous man-made structures” that will stand 165m high along a stretch of ranges close to his pastoral property Rosebank, founded by an ancestor, George Melrose, in 1843.

“Even if it were to be conclusively established (that) wind farms do not produce health problems, it’s annoying and affects quality of life”, he has said, and would cause significant damage to the land, hinder potential tourism opportunities and “cause extreme division in the community”.

Mr McLachlan’s stance against the project, which is expected to provide intermittent power to 250,000 homes, comes as he has committed the AFL to reducing its carbon footprint and encouraged AFL fans to “work together for a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable future’’.

It also conflicts with the views of retiring AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick, whose company 88 Green Ventures has invested in and managed renewable energy companies and backed Australia’s first commercial wind farm, at Codrington in Victoria.

Tilt Renewables, formerly called Trustpower, operates Australia’s second-largest wind farm at Snowtown, in South Australia.

Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges Landscape Guardians’ Tony Walker yesterday said residents feared economic and health impacts, as well as damage to the views of the rolling hills.

Arguments that the farm would cause health problems will be weighed against a 2015 National Health and Medical Research Council report that found “currently no consistent evidence that wind farms cause adverse health effects in humans”.