Dairy farmer angst is growing over plans for a giant wind farm in south-west Victoria.
Farmers have joined a Moyne Shire Hexham wind farm community engagement committee and will argue that prime farming land should be kept for farming purposes.
Committee member and Ellerslie dairy farmer, Mark Madden, said farmers were concerned about the loss of productive land and the potential impacts on their operations.
Mr Madden is also part of the Hexham Community Environmental Action Group, representing more than 30 landholders opposing the plan, and is one of more than 200 signatories to a petition against the windfarm.
Mr Madden and his wife Tracey farm with Mark’s parents Paul and Helen on a property on the southern edge of the proposed 125-turbine windfarm.
The closest wind turbine will be about 300 m from the Maddens’ farm and they anticipate they will see eight turbines from their property. They can already see a prospecting tower from their dairy, even on a hazy day.
The Maddens say south-west Victoria is emerging as Australia’s premier dairy and farming region and should be protected.
“They have a 1.5 km buffer from us but a 5 km buffer from towns,” Mark said.
“Why the difference? I can’t see the logic. If they’re going to be 5 km from a town, they should be 5k from a residence and farm.”
The Maddens are also concerned about potential planning overlays which could prevent them building anything within 1.5 km of a turbine.
“Effectively we have 1.2k on our land from the wind tower where we can’t do anything,” Mr Madden said.
“We can run our stock but we can’t build a hay shed or a calf shed. They’ve placed them near boundary fences which would put an overlay on everyone’s property.”
The company behind the Hexham Wind Farm proposal says the site is well suited to a wind farm development.
Wind Prospect says the proposal covers up to 125 turbines up to 250 m high. It would also include tracks, underground cabling, overhead powerlines and other electrical infrastructure.
Hexham Wind Farm is in the planning and environment stage and focused on completing independent technical assessments of potential impacts.
A spokesman for Wind Prospect said there were more than 90 wind farms operating across Australia and several hundred thousand wind turbines operating internationally.
“With most wind farms located in rural areas, a significant proportion of these wind turbines would be interacting with livestock yet we are not aware of any reports of potential impacts of wind farms on livestock,” the spokesman said.
“On the contrary there are many reports of livestock seeking out the shade and shelter created by wind turbines for protection from the sun and other elements.”
However, the Maddens say the visual impact would be there forever and concerns about the potential impact on stock and groundwater shouldn’t be dismissed.
The proposed windfarm would cover 15 000 ha from Caramut to Hexham and down to Ellerslie. Its northern boundary at Caramut is 22 km from the Madden farm.
Mr Madden said the wind farm company acknowledged farmer concerns but couldn’t allay their fears.
“They say they have majority support but we have over 200 signatures on a petition. There’s minimal support for it. We’re not against windfarms but we don’t see why they’ve got to dump it on top of people and farms.”
The action group has sent a protest letter to Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne.
The Maddens say south-west Victoria’s prime farming land and reliable rainfall is needed for food production.
“There’s plenty of vacant land where there’s no-one for miles; cropping farms where they’d be glad to see wind turbines,” Paul Madden said.
They are also concerned about rumours of more windfarms at Garvoc, Willatook and Woolsthorpe.
Tracey Madden said the family wasn’t against renewables.
“We have to do something for the planet, but we’re against good farming land going to wind.”
The next Hexham Wind Farm community engagement committee involves Moyne Shire councillors, six community and two Wind Prospect representatives.
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