DON Jelbart and his wife Sally have not ruled out leaving their family home of over 30 years at Walkerville because of the noise coming from the newly commissioned Bald Hills Wind Farm turbines.
The Jelbarts have owned the property since the 1950s.
They say you can hear the noise and feel the compression from the turbines most of the time, “like a truck coming up the driveway” but it’s on days of light wind, from the north-west and north, that it’s most pronounced.
“Would we move out? Maybe. We haven’t ruled it out,” said Mr Jelbart this week.
“The floor (in the house) needs doing but we’ve put that off until we’ve decided what we’re going to do.
“We might build something on the other side of the property, over on the Wilsons Prom side, but we’re not sure what
we’ll do yet.
“I’ve got an app on my phone that monitors noise and I’ve recorded 70dB in the house when it’s not supposed to go over 40dB. That wouldn’t hold up in court but they should have it independently monitored.
“If, as they say, these things can be built and when noise levels warrant, they can be shut down; they need to have a proper regulatory process in place.
“We don’t know in advance when it’s going to be loudest but they should be monitoring it themselves and taking action or we should be able to phone someone who can shut it down.
“I’m a bit deaf anyway so I have the television turned up at night but you can still hear it quite loudly over the TV at times which is a bit ordinary I reckon.
“Sally feels the compression from the turbines more than I do. She gets headaches and can’t sleep. She’s gone down to Melbourne some nights just to get away from it for a while.
“We ring them up but so far we’ve only had one confirmation of a complaint from them but that’s all. No action.
“They promised they’d put in a noise monitor here but it’s like most of the other things they say, just mumbling and bullshit.”
It has only been in the past month that all 52 turbines at Bald Hills have been generating power. At full capacity, the turbines could power the needs of 62,000 householders or four times the number of homes in South Gippsland.
But it could come at the expense of several home owners in the Walkerville area.
Mr Jelbart says it’s not at all clear what residents are supposed to do when the noise gets beyond nuisance level.
The closest wind turbine to the Jelbart’s property is just 1.4km away.
“You can hear them outside about 50 per cent of the time but it’s once or twice a week that they’re a problem, particularly when you’re sitting down at night.
“At VCAT they said they can be switched to ‘low noise mode’ or shut down completely and that it is something the firm is supposed to manage. But we’re not at all clear about the process.
“It’s only fair, and I’m not saying they’ve been fair, but in the first instance, it’s only fair that we contact Bald Hills or Mitsui but they need to demonstrate that they are prepared to take action.
“What’s really needed is for someone to independently monitor the noise levels. Not Marshall Day (Bald Hills’ noise assessment experts) or someone we choose but someone independent.
“If it’s annoying us at night to the point where we can’t sleep, we should be able to ring someone up for them to shut it down.”
While the Jelbarts find the noise loudest when the wind is coming from the north-west and north, other locals are affected when the wind is coming from the east.
Some other residents are more in the line of fire than they are, Mr Jelbart says, and are considering the option of moving out.
“Now that they are all operating, I think we need to get together and see what we should do. At the very least, we should know what the regulatory process is and whether or not Bald Hills is going to respond to our concerns.”
The extended Jelbart family has owned the property at Walkerville since the 1950s and the prospect of having to move out loomed large for them from the outset.
“That’s why we fought so hard,” he said.
Mr Jelbart said he didn’t accept what the authorities said that increasing the height of the turbines 25% and relocating some of them up to 350 metres away from the original plan had no effect.
“Even if the noise levels went down, there would have had to be some impact and yet they just produced the same concentric circles (of expected noise) around the turbines.
“It’s not linear like that anyway. It affects some areas more differently than others.”
At a VCAT hearing in July 2012, VCAT Deputy President Helen Gibson said the following:
“If for some reason the noise conditions are not complied with, there are processes under the permit to deal with this, with the ultimate sanction being an enforcement order. This is a risk the applicant must manage.”
If it gets to the point where the noise is driving people out of their homes, it’s time for action, according to Mr Jelbart.