by Michael Giles
ONE day, there could be a potentially massive claim for damages over the planning, construction and operation of the state’s windfarms.
Among those aggrieved by the location of these huge, industrial facilities, on farming land beside their previously tranquil, intensely rural properties, without the benefit of compensation, are some who say the noise levels are affecting their health and wellbeing.
We know some of the affected farmers, all of them upstanding citizens, and we have no reason to doubt that at times and under certain conditions, the noise and vibrations are intolerable.
If someone can irrefutably prove this is the case, government and the developers of these facilities could be liable for a hefty damages claim.
Anyone found to have exacerbated their injury by not dealing with their complaints in a timely manner or being found to be complicit in remedial action not being taken, could also find themselves joined in such legal action.
And many would say the South Gippsland Shire Council has either dragged the chain or not given sufficient priority to this issue up until now.
They have certainly been put on notice by the complainants who have had to take legal action, all the way to the Supreme Court, before they were at least partly satisfied with the response from the council.
But, having been given a rocket by the complainants’ legal team, the shire needs to ensure that all t’s are crossed and i’s dotted ahead of the Supreme Court hearing in November.
Hopefully the investigation of the reasonable complaints of the Bald Hills Wind Farm neighbours will be complete by then and an outcome known.
The shire might yet avoid litigation by the way it discharges its duties from this point onwards.
Of course, everyone knew, when the State Government insisted that local councils would be the responsible authority for these facilities, that it could cost ratepayers big time. And it already has, even when the level of rates paid by these facilities is considered.
But the shire has simply got to get on with it now and as much as we applaud ‘open and transparent’ local government, without the damage caused by mischievous interests within the council allegedly leaking ‘confidential’ information to lobby groups, interested individuals or the complainants’ legal team.
If, as indicated by the action of the Local Government Inspectorate last week, that Cr Andrew McEwen was the person who leaked the confidential email from the CEO about the Bald Hills Wind Farm noise complaint, information that was used extensively to cross-examine Mr Tamlin in the Supreme Court, he should be sacked.
Other investigations about bullying staff and councillors, and potentially about conflicts of interest and rorting the councillors’ expense account should result in the same penalty.
If the number of black marks against the South Gippsland Shire Council continues to grow, they should all be sacked, mindful that it will cost us the ratepayers millions to have administrators appointed.