According to local resident, Wilma Western, council’s decision to write to the Minister for Planning raising noise concerns associated with the Bald Hills Wind Farm is just the latest episode in an unsavoury melodrama. She made a submission last week calling on council to stop obstructing the project.
THE South Gippsland Shire Council has voted to make a pre-emptive strike against the potential for nuisance noise levels at the Bald Hills Wind Farm near Tarwin Lower even before the $300 million facility has been built.
Only Cr Bob Newton, a noted supporter of wind farm projects, was against the idea of warning the Victorian Minister for Planning, Matthew Guy, to be prepared to enforce compliance with noise conditions before any problem was identified.
“There’s no proof that there is going to be any noise issues down there at all. I can’t see any reason for sending a letter to the Minister before it happens,” Cr Newton said at last Wednesday’s council meeting.
“It’s putting the cart before the horse,” he said, noting that what had happened in other parts of the state was not South Gippsland Shire’s concern.
But he was the lone voice on council. Six other councillors; Hill, Hutchinson-Brooks, McEwen, Harding and Fawcett all bowed to a request made in a petition to council recently “to protect residents… who may suffer and be adversely impacted by the unacceptable nuisance of excessive noise resulting in loss of amenity”.
Cr Kieran Kennedy declared an indirect pecuniary interest and absented himself from the debate and vote.
Cr Newton’s comments followed similar remarks by local political activist, Wilma Western, who said the petition “boils down to a last-ditch attempt to prevent construction of the wind farm”.
She told council, during a community presentation session earlier in the day, that the noise levels campaign had no basis in science and was more likely an attempt by DLP Senator John Madigan to garner the electoral support of disaffected voters.
She said Senator Madigan’s involvement in the anti-wind farm campaign was simply the “latest episode in this melodrama” which had included claims it would “industrialise the pristine landscape of South Gippsland’s farming countryside”, create division in the community, kill the endangered Orange-bellied Parrot and ruin the farms where the power line passed overhead.
She said claims of medical problems associated with turbine noise had been “comprehensively discredited” and the project should be allowed to go ahead without further obstruction.
“It will provide local jobs, it will assist some local farmers and it will provide more clean, renewable electricity to Victoria.”
She said it was “pretty weird and beyond desperate to expect council to ignore the experts, ignore the various findings of VCAT and ignore the decisions of the responsible ministers” as the petition had asked them to do… but that’s just what they did.
Cr Nigel Hutchinson-Brooks denied council was trying to stop the project but was simply asking the Minister to do what he was supposed to do – sign off on the wind turbines as being noise compliant or issue a notice if they weren’t.
Cr Andrew McEwen dismissed Ms Western’s complaints about the community campaign against Bald Hills as democracy at work.
During debate later in the day, Cr Hutchinson-Brooks said it was reasonable to refer the matter to the Minister.
“It has become apparent with another wind farm (at Waubra in the state’s west) that some turbines don’t comply with noise requirements and they haven’t been signed off as compliant by the Planning Minister,” Cr Hutchinson-Brooks said.
“After three years that hasn’t happened at Waubra and the concern is that it could happen at Bald Hills.”
The councillor said he had some experience with the noise turbines made, through his involvement in the aviation industry, and turbines moving at 260km/h at the tip did have the potential to create a great deal of noise, especially downwind.
“There is no argument that people living on the eastern side of the Bald Hills Wind Farm could be affected.
“This is an advocacy matter on behalf of the community,” Cr McEwen said in support of the motion.”