About 100 locals turned up to a Ruby Hills drop in session to demand answers
Credit: By Rachel Gray | May 14 2023 | armidaleexpress.com.au ~~
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About 100 people from Walcha were accused of being “divisive”, “scaremongering” and for “sabotaging” the Ruby Hills wind farm pop-in day, said local Damien Timbs.
Walcha Energy, the developers of Ruby Hills wind farm, slated for a site about 10 kilometres west of Walcha, organised two drop-in information sessions for the public, from 4pm to 7pm on May 10 and 11. Members from grassroots community Voice for Walcha had told Walcha Energy they would be at the May 11 session at 5.30 pm, to get some answers addressed to them as a community.
But Voice for Walcha’s Damien Timbs said when they turned up to the Walcha Showgrounds drop-in session, representatives from Walcha Energy “refused to listen” and answer their questions.
Walcha Energy project development manager Dan Muller was contacted by the Leader, but refused to comment. “There were a lot of very frustrated and disillusioned community members that left last night’s so-called Ruby Hills information evening,” Mr Timbs said.
Mr Timbs said the group had received a signed email from Mr Muller ahead of the drop-in session that addressed some of their concerns about the planned Ruby Hills project. Questions in the response included issues about noise, biodiversity, traffic, the size of the project and a clearer definition of the meaning of “social license”.
In the reply letter seen by the Leader, Mr Muller wrote, “We have endeavoured to respond to your questions to the best of our ability, as the project is only at the pre-scoping report stage, we do not have all the answers just yet.”
Walcha Energy also scoped the Winterbourne Wind Farm project slated for development about 10km from Walcha before on-selling it in 2019 to Netherlands-based company Vestas. The Department of Planning and Environment is still combing through public submissions following the release of the Winterbourne Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
If both wind farms are approved, there would be some 260 turbines, up to about 230 metres in height, within a 10 km radius from Walcha, population 3000. Responsible Energy Development for New England (RED4NE)’s Matt Macarthur-Onslow said he noticed a “rising level of angst” about what the Ruby Hills development was doing to the community.
“The aggressiveness is starting to show up, which we all knew was going to happen,” Mr Macarthur-Onslow, a Walcha local, said. “It certainly is unpleasant.”
In 2020, the NSW government introduced legislation that established five Renewable Energy Zones (REZs) where publicly-owned transmission lines that transfer power from renewable energy plants to homes would be built. The New England REZ extends from Glen Innes Severn Shire Council in the north to the Walcha Council area in the south, encompassing Armidale, Uralla, and Guyra.
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