IT HAS not been a good week for the Bald Hills Wind Farm Pty Ltd, operators of the $400 million renewable energy facility located between Tarwin Lower and Walkerville.
Although how difficult a week it has been will only be revealed after the outcome of its Supreme Court stoush on Wednesday and Thursday, June 10 and 11 with the South Gippsland Shire Council, and the aggrieved owners of neighbouring farms is known.
Adding an unwanted element to their legal problems, it has been reported that one of the massive turbine blades has broken loose and crashed to the ground rendering one of the 52 structures inoperable.
According to one local landholder, the turbine blade was still laying on the ground on Friday, June 12, visible from farming properties along the Buffalo-Waratah Road and Kings Flat Road.
“I’ve seen it there. Not sure when it came down. Reports are two or three weeks ago,” said the landowner who wished to remain nameless.
Meanwhile though, it has all been going on in the Supreme Court this week with the South Gippsland Shire Council forced to defend its decision of March 27, 2019, that the complaints of the residents about adverse noise levels were both “credible and consistent”.
Following the tabling of a report by public health consultants James C Smith and Associates, the council found “that it is satisfied that there exists a nuisance of the kind alleged by the complainants, for the following reasons: (a.) the credible and consistent character of the noise logs provided by the complainants and/or the complaints made by the complainants about sleep disturbance and the injury to their personal comfort; (b.) the conclusions of the Smith Report; and (c.) the weight of the other evidence presented to councillors suggests the existence of a nuisance.”
Council went on to say the nuisance “exists only intermittently” and encouraged the parties to settle the matter privately, which they were unable to do.
The aggrieved local farmers are now suing for damages in a separate action later in the year.
A Bald Hills Wind Farm spokesperson said last year it was “disappointed” with the finding and “entirely rejects the South Gippsland Shire Council’s decision to support a nuisance allegation under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic) (PHWA)”.
“Based on the ample evidence provided to council during its investigation, it is our position that the only course reasonably available to council was to find that there is no nuisance within the meaning of the PHWA,” the spokesperson said.
“Whilst the wind farm acknowledges the difficulties faced by the council in coming to this decision, extensive monitoring and analysis has demonstrated compliance with the wind farm’s planning permit, granted by the State Government of Victoria.”
Despite objecting to the council’s decision of March 27, BHWF Pty Ltd failed to officially challenge the ruling within 60 days, so council’s decision remains in place.
The landowners who joined council in its defence said they felt they got a good hearing and were hopeful the court would uphold council’s determination of March 2019, but they were concerned to hear that the council had held secret meetings with BHWF Pty Ltd, about which they were not informed.
It’s likely the group will seek some redress from the council once the transcripts of the hearing this week are made public.