Yass Valley Council on Wednesday night voted against new industrial wind farms being built in its region.
And while local government is in many instances powerless when it comes to deciding whether or not wind power stations are approved, it can recommend to the state government that it does not want them.
Many of the wind power stations being proposed across NSW are so large as to qualify as projects of state significance, meaning planning decisions are taken out of the local government arena.
At its May meeting Yass Council voted 5-4 in favour of a motion declaring it disagreed “in principle” with wind powered electricity generation.
That motion was on Wednesday night rescinded
But a new motion was passed 7-2 in favour that Yass council felt the area was already hosting enough turbines and it wanted no more approved in its patch.
Having considered the social, environmental, economic and strategic planning impacts on the Yass Valley communities and the cumulative impacts of the four approved wind farm sites Council is of the view that it has reached the maximum number of industrial scale turbines for the local government area.
Yass Valley deputy mayor Kim Turner said he was a “dissenter”, and would have preferred to stick with the original motion against industrial wind production “in principle”.
“I was lucky enough to go and have a look at Crookwell II,” he told The Land on Thursday, en-route to South Australia.
“I can honestly say I was horrified by the general destruction of the countryside.
“It’s all very well to sit in Canberra and say ‘we’re going to save the planet’ and pat each other on the back, but the Australian Capital Territory is not host to wind turbines.
“Yet it has also deemed that it will run entirely on renewable energy by 2020.
“So the ACT doesn’t host any wind turbines, but as neighbours we do – we’re next to it and we say ‘enough is enough’.
“The unfettered development of these things cannot go on.
“We’ll get to a point in 70 years where people will shake their heads and say ‘what were they thinking?’”
Cr Turner said everyone knows renewable energy is the way of the future, but the impact of wind farms on the environment is unnacceptable.
“You’ve got bulldozers ploughing their way across steep hillsides to create access roads and concrete laid down metres and metres thick and I’m not prepared to leave that as a legacy for my children, grandchildren and all the generations to come,” he said.
“It is time to draw a line in the sand.
“We’re not going to make it easy for the next proponent that comes along.
“We can control the access roads and they can’t just ride roughshod over our communities.”
Cr Turner said: “I love the land and I love this region.”
As an aside, he said windmills were not efficient.
“Windmills used to litter the countryside, because farmers like their stock to have water, but windmills are not an efficient way to move water, if there’s no wind, there’s no water in the trough.
“I’ve just driven from Yass and I’m in Narrandera and I’ve seen one windmill on the entire journey.
“I’m looking at water flowing past me that has gone over the wall of Burrunjuck Dam, the dam is at 30 per cent and the water is still going past, so why wasn’t that used to create electricity?”
He said he would welcome solar development because “you can’t see solar panels 20 kilometres away and you can still graze sheep under them”.
Cr Nathan Furry said he was concerned that council was making a paradoxical statement with its motion.
“We may have made a decision that does not refelect the stadards our community expects us to follow,” he said.
He said the Australian Wind Alliance claimed to have extensively door-knocked the region and had received very little complaint about the presence of turbines in the local government area.
If that was the case, he said, council might well be acting not in its constituents’ interests.
Australian Wind Alliance spokesman Andrew Bray said he was disappointed that council had turned its back on the promise of economic prosperity that wind development could provide.
He said ultimately council’s action was futile because its motion would have no effect on projects already approved.