LOCAL shires never wanted to be the ‘responsible authority’ dealing with noise nuisance complaints from the neighbours of wind farm developments for exactly this reason.
But, as they say, it is what it is.
And as a result of being the responsible authority, appointed by the State Government, the South Gippsland Shire Council has found itself embroiled in costly Supreme Court action, brought by 10 complainants who say the shire has been less than forthcoming with information they should be prepared to release.
“I act for 10 plaintiffs,” said commercial litigator Dominica Tannock this week.
“Notification was given to the shire, under Section 62 of the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 that between April 15, 2016 and August 30, 2016 a nuisance noise was coming from the Bald Hills Wind Farm turbines which required the shire to investigate. The shire claims to have investigated and told the complainants in February that no nuisance exists.”
“My clients asked for their reasons but the shire said they didn’t need to give any reasons.”
But Ms Tannock said the complaints believe it is reasonable that they get some reason for the shire’s response and for that information to be released.
The shire has since said it has released all the information they have.
Ms Tannock, and the Bald Hills Wind Farm neighbours she now represents, say they haven’t.
It has all the hallmarks of a classic legal stouch, and unless there’s some settlement earlier, even later this week, which is possible we are told, the matter will be played out in the Supreme Court on September 11.
The ‘Sentinel-Times’ asked for the shire’s response to the dispute, and while they declined to be interviewed as the matter is subject to legal proceedings, the shire did issue the following statement:
“Council has been the subject of legal action relating to a noise complaint about the Bald Hills windfarm. The action relates to a request for information pertaining to the complaint investigation. In my experience similar matters of this nature are normally addressed through a Freedom of Information application, however the legal representatives of the plaintiffs have pursued this matter via an application to the Supreme Court. This matter has not been heard by the Court. Without prejudice, Council has sought to cooperate with this unusual approach by supplying information for the plaintiffs’ consideration.”
The statement was issued by the shire’s acting CEO, Bryan Sword.
The shire has indicated here that a Freedom of Information application should have been the way to go and that that the complainants have some reason of their own for taking the “unusual approach” of Supreme Court action.
But Ms Tannock has denied there’s any attempt being made to raise the public profile of wind farm turbine noise complaints by issuing Supreme Court proceedings.
“In the first instance, I represented members of the Tarwin Valley Coastal Guardians, and certainly information is shared between groups with common grievances, but this isn’t exclusively my area of work.
“Information is still outstanding,” she claimed, noting that her clients still wanted it to be released.