"He decided to move out even if he cannot sell." (Australia)

Sep 21, 2009


—Debra Jopson, The Sydney Morning Herald (8/21/09)

George McLaughlin’s property has been on the market for five months, but after his new neighbour, Capital Wind Farm, fired up its turbines about a month ago, he decided to move out even if he cannot sell.

While Kevin Rudd was pushing global solutions for climate change in New York at the weekend, in NSW the battle between wind farms as planet-saving sources of renewable energy and residents who say they destroy rural life is coming to a head.

“It is like having a washing machine run constantly, or a car idling outside your window, or an aircraft overhead which stays in one position.  It is a constant drone which is quite disturbing,” said Mr. McLaughlin, who with wife, Sue, and son, Duncan, moved 50 kilometres northeast of Canberra eight years ago for the peace of tiny Tarago.

While the McLaughlins plan to leave rather than litigate, across NSW landholders near turbines the height of 40-storey buildings are talking financial compensation, and a group near Goulburn has begun legal action it hopes will be a test case.

The Taralga Landscape Guardians took on the Planning Minister, Kristina Keneally, and energy company RES Southern Cross in the Land and Environment Court.

The court found “on balance, the broader public good must prevail” and approved a wind farm near the Southern Highlands heritage town of Taralga.

But it also ordered the energy company must offer to buy at market value the four land-holdings most affected by the sight, noise and “shadow flicker” of the industrial turbines.

Now about 40 landholders from the Parkesbourne-Mummel Landscape Guardians have begun proceedings in the same court over the $250 million Gullen Range wind farm near Goulburn for which Epuron has won state planning approval.

“We’d like to establish a general principle for compensation. This was explicitly rejected by the judge in the Taralga case,” said the group’s deputy chairman, David Brooks.

The State Government has approved nine wind farms in five years, with six more before the Department of Planning. This has produced an outcry from residents in the Upper Hunter, New England, Central Tablelands and Canberra-NSW border areas. Residents have complained to a NSW Parliament inquiry that buffer zones are not big enough.

“There is an expectation of government that near neighbours of wind farms will pay a significant part of the cost due to loss of property values and impact on their lives, with no compensation. I think that is appalling,” said Mr. McLaughlin, who is a consultant on using the Internet for global good.

Epuron said in its inquiry submission that four in every five people surveyed in rural communities support wind energy development and “the few loud voices opposing wind farms are disproportionate to the actual views of the entire community.”

No study anywhere has ever shown a measurable reduction in property values, it said.

Infigen Energy, which owns Capital Wind Farm, said in some rural property ads, wind farm views were used as a selling point. Infigen also said: “There is little doubt that in an ideal world locating wind farms in areas with lower population densities is desirable.”

However, most were not viable in remote areas because of the high cost of connecting two lines and the electricity lost transmitting over long distances.

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