NEIGHBOURS of the Bald Hills Wind Farm and their legal representative, Dominica Tannock of DTS Legal, have finally lost patience.
After negotiations around a private settlement between the operators of the wind farm broke down last week, they are preparing to launch legal action at VCAT, not only against Bald Hills Wind Farm Pty Ltd but also against the Minister for Planning Richard Wynne and the South Gippsland Shire Council.
They will be seeking a declaration that the Bald Hills Wind Farm is non-compliant with the conditions of its planning permit, specifically that the turbines are creating excessive noise, and should be shut down.
They will be reserving their right to pursue compensation.
Meanwhile the South Gippsland Shire is also the subject of Supreme Court action by the operators of the wind farm seeking to overturn their decision in March 2019 that “Council is satisfied that there exists a nuisance of the kind alleged by the complainants”.
Ms Tannock, representing the neighbours of the wind farm, sent a letter to Minister Wynne last week, advising him of the proceedings against him and a number of parties.
“We tried to settle the matter privately, as recommended by the council, but we have been unable to reach a resolution,” Ms Tannock said this week, revealing that six of the farming families affected by the noise levels met with Bald Hills directors last week to discuss their concerns.
Ms Tannock said she was unable to provide any details of what was discussed for confidentiality reasons but acknowledged that negotiations had broken down.
“We’ll now be pursuing the matter at VCAT and seeking a declaration of non-compliance. If there is a determination of non-compliance by the tribunal, the Minister would have to take action and that would open Pandora’s Box,” Ms Tannock claimed.
“They’ve been reporting that the wind farm is compliant when it’s not,” Ms Tannock alleged.
“The Minister would have to take action, including the decommissioning of turbines, and this would have wider implications.”
Ms Tannock said the neighbours could still seek compensation in a separate action.
Legal representatives for some of the neighbours affected by the Bald Hills Wind Farm, Dominica Tannock, has also revealed that the South Gippsland Shire Council is the subject of a Supreme Court action by Bald Hills Wind Farm Pty Ltd, seeking to overturn a ruling by the shire council, in March this year, that the noise nuisance does exist and urging the parties to “negotiate a mutually satisfactory resolution now that the finding has been made”.
“But Bald Hills hasn’t been prepared to respect the decision of the umpire, the council, and is seeking to have that decision overturned,” Ms Tannock said.
“The ratepayers of the South Gippsland Shire have already shelled out many thousands of dollars on reports and investigations and now they are being made to fight the decision in court.
“We want the decision to stay and we’ll also be joining the council in defending that decision.”
In a letter to Minister Wynne last week, the complainants say they will rely on the following issue in pursuing the matter at VCAT:
1. Expert evidence of NMS – 12 months’ monitoring (2018/2019) – in your possession;
2. Expert evidence of Steven Cooper, the Acoustics Group (July 2019 – ongoing) – in your possession;
3. The 12 months of falsified reports of Marshall Day Acoustics referable to compliance at Cape Bridgewater Wind Farm – in your possession;
4. The conditions of the planning permit including the ongoing obligations under it;
5. The endorsed testing plan and the obligations to test at noise sensitive locations;
6. The ‘curtailment strategy’;
7. Your letter to BHWF Pty Ltd dated 23 March 2019; and
8. BHWF’s letter to you dated 21 August 2018 reporting compliance.
Ms Tannock claims the Minister already has ample evidence of the need to act but has failed to do so.
A government spokesperson said it would be inappropriate to comment at this time.