By Michael Giles
TARWIN Lower farmers and neighbours of the 52-turbine Bald Hills Wind Farm, John and Stuart Kilsby, just want to get on with it.
Which is why they agreed to settle their dispute with the owner/operators of the wind farm, the Infrastructure Capital Group, before it went to court.
But with seven of the noisy, white, 126-metre high monstrosities strung out along their fence line to the east and south of their generations-old family farm on Walkerville Road, and another eight in close proximity, they frankly hope John Zakula and Noel Uren are successful with their Supreme Court challenge.
Which is why Stuart Kilsby appeared as a witness in the trial last Wednesday, September 15.
What he had to say, as a young farmer, married with four kids, unwilling to have his family live at the property now because of the constant disturbance, unable to even select a site for a future home, overlooking the 1560-acre property with views of Wilsons Promontory, was tragic.
“What was the plan for the farm in the long-term, going back to when you were young?” asked legal counsel for the plaintiffs in the case, Georgina Costello.
“When we were young, we’re fourth generation farmers, so I think the idea was the old man to pass the farm down to Johnno, or all the siblings and keep carrying on farming, as it has been for generations,” Mr Kilsby told the court by video link last week.
“And did you want to build a house on the land eventually? Did you have a particular spot in mind?”
“Yeah, we’ve always had a couple of spots. Preferably anywhere up high, so you can see the farm, because that’s what your aim is for your farm, you get to see all your ideas, what you want to do.”
But, as Mr Kilsby explained, the ideal future home building sites were adjacent to where number 5 and 6 turbines are now located, just over the boundary fence on higher ground to catch the Bass Strait wind, or about 200 metres out from turbine 41, at the south end of the farm.
“So, potentially one site near, I’ll just say turbine 41, but say 200 metres out, you’ve probably got views of Bass Strait, the Inverloch inlet and Wilsons Prom,” Mr Kilsby explained for the court.
But, instead of being able to select their own home sites, they were told, as part of the conditions for the establishment of the wind farm, that the only place on their own farm they could build in the future, was well away from the turbines, down on the flat beside Walkerville Road.
But the Kilsbys didn’t stay. Their parents, the late Andrew Kilsby and his wife Mary, moved out of the family home ahead of the arrival of the turbines, in about 2012, and Stuart followed a couple of years later.
The wind farm became operational in September 2015.
“Yeah, it was one of the key factors because the old man had a good engineering brain and he always looked into different things and I’m pretty sure he got a report saying that we would not be able to stay on the farm because of the noise issue that was going to be the situation that comes later on,” said Mr Kilsby, explaining the reason for the family’s pre-emptive move.
But as Mr Kilsby told the court, living off the farm, a beef and sheep operation, hasn’t been easy especially at calving and lambing time. He and his brother still work there six or seven days-a-week.
Asked to explain the noise, Mr Kilsby said it made him anxious just going to the farm each day.
“You sort of get that vibration and there’s different times where there’s like whistling. There’s even whistling noises from five or six different turbines as well, all operating at different times and it sort of really like, frustrates you when you get there and the noise that you haven’t heard is, yeah, really annoying. It sort of makes you anxious.
“It’s like a humming vibration sound in your ears and you can, you know, as soon as you get there, you can always tell if they’re on because you can feel it straightaway.
“They’re very loud but at times different. It’s all due to which way the wind is coming from as well.”
He said that there wasn’t much noise on a northerly but on pretty much every other wind direction there was noise.
“Pretty much like at three sides of the farm, it’s pretty hard to get away from the noise.
“It just makes me really anxious coming to the farm and knowing that you’re going to have that sound in your ear all the time, like it stresses me out. It makes me anxious sometimes, if not dizzy. When they’re really going fast and spinning a lot and making really loud noises, it’s hard to concentrate and think.”
Mr Kilsby went on to explain that not only was he not going to build a house at the farm, because of the noise, but he never willingly brought his kids out, to be around the sheep and cattle like he was as a kid, because he didn’t want to expose them to the noise levels.
He said that the camping and picnics he enjoyed on the farm as a kid were also out of the question.
He was asked if he’d stayed out at the farm and experienced the noise at night.
“I’ve slept out there quite a few times, but most of the times it’s throughout calving and lambing period, so I’m pretty much sleep deprived as it is anyway because more times than not you’ve got to get up every three or four hours and go check the cows because we’ve got 150 head of cows calving and it’s not an easy process.”
Have you heard these sort of noises at night?
“Yeah, absolutely. At night it’s probably louder again because there’s no other noises, like during the day, that are interfering with those other ones.”
He also said that the noise of the turbines had affected his late father, Andrew’s health and cut short the amount of time he could spend on the farm.
“Yep. He even said he reckoned it like made his heart palpate, even when he’s working in the shed. It like made him anxious and I reckon he probably – it was evident that he got a lot angrier because he couldn’t handle the noise. He always found it too hard, so he’d just leave the farm… so I was just there to look after the farm by myself, really.”
The Supreme Court action, being brought by two neighbours of the Bald Hills Wind Farm, John Zakula and Noel Uren, alleging substantial and unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of their land, due to the noise coming from the wind farm, continues this week and is expected to run until Tuesday, September 21.