Drivers were stopped on Inverloch-Venus Bay Road last weekend as contractors continued to erect power poles along the controversial route to the Bald Hills Wind Farm.
THE justifiable hoohah over dead koalas may have provided something of a smoke screen for a more serious, long-term hazard created by the Bald Hills Wind Farm project at Tarwin Lower.
It’s the close proximity of concrete power poles to road, especially along Walkerville Road, that now has locals incensed.
Not to mention the fact that the poles have completely ruined the look of the entrance to the riverside town of Tarwin Lower.
“The community is in an uproar about it. It’s pretty ordinary looking but worse than that, it’s a terrible traffic hazard,” said Don Fairbrother of Walkerville this week.
“The truck that tipped over there recently would have taken out two of those poles.
“There’s simply nowhere to go now if you run off.
“In this day and age, when you’ve got 66Kva lines coming out of a project, they should have been put underground. We’re in 2014 not the 1950.
“Why they weren’t put underground is beyond me,” he said.
“The power lines from the desal plant were run through from Wonthaggi to Loch underground and these should have
“In the event they had to go above ground, they should have been put through the paddocks, not next to the road.
“The landowners were exercising their rights not to have the poles on their land and that’s fair enough, and the contractors may not have wanted to go through the process of forcing an easement through but the outcome is disastrous and both the shire and Vicroads are going to have to look at it.
“I don’t know what the solution is. You probably wouldn’t want to see those wire barriers all the way along there either but what are they going to do, put a barrier around each pole.
“It’s terribly dangerous to traffic but not only that, it’s completely cruelled the look of both entrances to town.
“It’s a disaster.”
Mr Fairbrother commented on how close the poles spaced and how close they are to the bitumen.
“I understand they put the poles close together as a bushfire measure, so the wires don’t swing in the wind but they are little more than a couple of metres off the road in places.
“They had to go underground.”
Mr Fairbrother said that while the power line route was subject to a planning permit for the removal of vegetation, no such approval was required for the power poles with the result that road safety has no been impacted.
Contractors continued work on the controversial power line route at the weekend, stopping cars on Inverloch-Venus Bay Road while cranes lifted poles into position close to the road.
According to South Gippsland Shire Council, Walkerville Road is a Council managed road.
“Council has requested that the contractors installing the poles for Bald Hills Wind Farm (BHWF) organise a Traffic Safety Audit by an independent company to determine which poles will need safety barriers, and what type of barrier should be used,” said a spokesperson for the shire.
“Our engineers are following up with BHWF regarding the results of the Traffic Safety Audit as they should hopefully be available soon. Signs indicating reduced speed limits through this area have also been erected.
“As a utility provider, BHWF did not need to apply for a permit to use the road reserve to erect the poles. They do however have an obligation to adhere to the Austroads Guidelines for Clear Zones.”
Wind farm could be a legal minefield
INDEPENDENT Senator for Victoria John Madigan has praised the actions of New South Wales Planning Minister Pru Goward in launching legal action against Gullen Range Wind Farm and warned her Victorian counterpart that a similar situation could arise at Bald Hills.
Senator Madigan said the operator of Bald Hills wind farm, currently under construction, had changed the location of 20 of 52 turbines without permission, with some new turbine sites up to 250m from their original location.
Senator Madigan said furious local residents had been in contact with his office expressing concern at the environmental and acoustic impact of the changes.
“While the planning permit allows for small relocations of turbines, I don’t believe it justifies the construction of turbines so far from their original locations,” Senator Madigan said.
“I accept the view of community members who say the changes will significantly alter the wind farm’s acoustic signature and therefore render any carefully considered pre-construction noise modelling useless.”
Senator Madigan said continued community disruption at Victorian wind farms at Waubra and Cape Bridgewater showed the enforcement of noise conditions in the state was not working.
Both these wind farms are still without the Minister’s formal determination on compliance despite these power stations operating in rural communities for more than five years, Senator Madigan said.
Senator Madigan said both power generation facilities had received hundreds of millions of dollars in renewable energy certificates, an indirect tax on Australia’s energy consumers.
Under Commonwealth law, only power stations that satisfy all approval requirements are eligible to receive certificates.
“It is in the best interests of all parties to respect the integrity of the planning process,” Senator Madigan told Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy in a letter dated October 15.
“The local community, the operator and the Clean Energy Regulator must all have confidence that the Bald Hills development is constructed in a manner that is consistent with the terms of its conditionally-issued permit and operated in a manner that will not compromise amenity or cause nuisance.
“As the minister responsible for the enforcement of noise I seek your assurance that the matter of noise compliance will be responsibly addressed in relation to the 20 turbines constructed at locations alternative to the project’s approval.”