A planning panel has heard divided opinion on whether 109 wind turbines should be built in southern New South Wales, with supporters arguing they could revitalise the local economy.
More than 50 people packed out a Planning Assessment Commission meeting in Boorowa on Thursday which examined the proposed Rye Park Wind Farm.
The project was recommended for approval earlier this month by the Department of Planning and Environment, with 68 stringent conditions.
The company Tilt Renewables wants to build 109 turbines near the village of Rye Park east of Boorowa, but the department has recommended it be reduced to 84 to allay visual concerns.
Tony Bickford, who is a sheep farmer near Rye Park and opposes the wind farm, said he was buoyed by the department’s move to reduce the wind farm’s footprint.
But he said he wanted the project scrapped altogether.
“That is a big help, but I think the optimum thing is that the project does not go ahead at all,” Mr Bickford said.
“The surrounds are just so beautiful that they should not even be put there and the country itself is very fragile to have these turbines put there.”
Concerns residents will be ‘the meat in a sandwich’
The Rye Park Wind Farm is one of the biggest wind farms proposed for southern New South Wales, and would be the first one for the Boorowa district.
The 122-turbine Bango Wind Farm is also being proposed south of the town, and Mr Bickford said the two projects would bring major cumulative visual impacts.
“This is a major concern, Rye Park is just going to be the meat in a sandwich. We’re going to have a corridor of turbines either side of us,” Mr Bickford said.
But many local residents at the meeting spoke in support of the project, and urged for the 25 turbines that were slated for removal to be retained.
Rye Park resident Matthew Smith said cutting the project’s size would mean less money for the community and landowners set to host the turbines.
“I know some of those people that will now miss out altogether, they won’t be hosting any turbines if those 25 turbines are removed,” Mr Smith said.
“I know some other people that will have their number of turbines reduced, so their income will be reduced. And they’re good people and I know they can use the money.
“Some people say, well it’s all about the money. It’s not all about the money but it certainly helps a small community. The more turbines that are there, the more income that there is.”
Potential to create jobs, keep local school afloat
Justin Mooney works for a hire company in the Goulburn area and said the boom in wind farm projects across the southern tablelands had led to more local ongoing maintenance jobs.
He said the income from wind projects in the region would ensure his business remained viable and he would be able to take on more people.
“The Crookwell project which is about to kick off, I envisage we will employ another five to six people to service that project, so this Rye Park one would be a similar thing if we were to get some business at it,” Mr Mooney said.
Local farmer Craig Southwell said the wind farm had the potential create new jobs and ensure the Rye Park school remained viable.
“I’ve got two kids there now, I had three kids there last year, and I think it’s a great thing,” Mr Southwell said.
“I actually work at the school, they’re hoping as well, I think, that it’ll bring more families to the area, more kids.
“It’s one of the few services in Rye Park the employs people, so if other employment can support that employment well it’s a win-win.”
But Sara Brown from the Rye Park Action Group said the potential benefits of the wind farm have been overstated.
“It’s going to benefit a few, but it’s not going to really in the scheme of things drive any more employment opportunities,” Ms Brown said.
“They’re not going to build cafes and there’s not going to suddenly be a plaza that’s built because you’ve put all of these turbines in.”
The Planning Assessment Commission will now consider all the submissions on the project.
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