Finally, council will have to decide on noise issue
SOMETHING that didn’t take a holiday over the Christmas-New Year break was the spinning, allegedly “unreasonably” noisy, turbines at the Bald Hills Wind Farm, between Tarwin Lower and Walkerville.
In September last year, “a highly experienced independent public health consultant”, appointed at great expense by the South Gippsland Shire Council, James C Smith and Associates, came to the conclusion that “there is a nuisance caused by wind farm noise, in that, the noise is audible frequently within individual residences and this noise is adversely impacting on the personal comfort and wellbeing of individuals”.
But four months after the release of the James C Smith report, the council is yet to formally accept its findings and make a decision, much less take the action it is required to take under State Government legislation to mitigate the problem.
All that may be about to change.
Behind closed council doors on Wednesday, February 6, the members of the South Gippsland Shire Council are due to hear verbal submissions in response to the James C Smith report, together with new noise monitoring data and other information from legal counsel for the affected landholders, Dominica Tannock of DST Legal of Abbotsford, and her aggrieved clients.
The council has also invited representatives of the operators of the Bald Hills Wind Farm, its owners the Australian Renewables Income Fund, a division of the Infrastructure Capital Group, and their lawyers, to address council.
Both have already submitted extensive written reports and are expected to take up the opportunity to address council, in camera.
Following the shire staff and councillor-only session, the council is expected to hand down its own ruling on the alleged noise complaints and what, if anything, needs to be done about it.
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Representative for the affected neighbours of the wind farm, Ms Tannock, said there was only one way the council could rule.
“Council has spent all this money on the James C Smith report which has made its findings but it’s the council that has to make a decision and in the absence of any expertise of their own, they can only accept what the Smith report has to say.”
As well as formally responding to the Smith report, Ms Tannock said her clients would present new sound data which would corroborate the Smith findings.
“The council’s own consultant found that there is an abnormality, that there is a statutory nuisance.
“The council came back to us and asked if they made a decision that there was a statutory nuisance, what remedy we would require but we just said we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” she said.
Ms Tannock said the complainants would make their response public after the meeting but doing so early might jeopardise the process.
She said, however, the response would make the point that the facility was constructed in a regulatory vacuum and operated in a regulatory vacuum, and it was clear from the investigation that noise from the wind farm is audible within residences despite apparent compliance by the wind farm with permit conditions and the New Zealand Standard 1998, and with a noise mitigation strategy in place at the wind farm.
After personally experiencing noise from the turbines in one of the affected neighbours’ houses at Walkerville such that “it intruded into conversation between investigators and residents”, James C Smith said this in his report:
“The experience at the Jelbart residence on 24th and 25th July 2018 whereby wind farm noise intruded on conversation within the residence at night time is seen to be detrimental to personal comfort and the enjoyment of the residential environment by Mr and Mrs Jelbart.
“After consideration of the completed noise logs by individual complainants and subsequent discussions with some of these individuals it appears there is a nuisance caused by wind farm noise, in that, the noise is audible frequently within individual residences and this noise is adversely impacting on the personal comfort and wellbeing of individuals.”
So it’s D-day for the wind farm noise on Wednesday, February 6 with the decision set to be made public on Wednesday, February 13.