SSF National Wind Farm Commissioner visits Boolarra – Dec. 2019

Representatives of interest groups from the district met with the National Wind Farm Commissioner, Andrew Dyer on Monday 18 November. OSMI’s Peter Marriot and Community Engagement Officer, Ruth Harper, were also present (but only participated to clarify their process).

There were 14 at the round table meeting and the groups represented included the BCDG, the Yinnar and District Community Association, Strzelecki Sustainable Futures, the Gippsland Climate Change Network, Delburn Landcare, Strzelecki Community Alliance, and the Mirboo North Community Energy project.

The Wind Farm Commissioner explained that one of his roles is to facilitate the referral and resolution of complaints received from concerned residents about proposed or operating windfarms. He referred us to his annual report that shows that the majority of complaints are in the proposed period and there are few complaints once the windfarms are established, “As at 31 December 2018, a total of 18 complaint matters remained open” (National Wind Farm Commissioner- Annual Report 2018).

The Commissioner’s other roles are to provide greater transparency on information, and to identify and promote best practices relating to the planning, development and compliance. There are no formal powers associated with the Commissioner’s role. The Commissioner is independent and currently reports directly to the Minister for Energy.

The meeting was very worthwhile as people were able to raise their concerns in a respectful manner. A number of concerns were raised and the Wind Farm Commissioner responded to these carefully. Some of the take-home messages from this meeting were:

  • HVP as Host – The Commissioner suggested that concerns with the fire management of the HVP plantation exist now, and have for a while, and should be taken up with HVP.
  • Fire Fighting – The Wind Commissioner explained that Aerial fire fighting would be effective with wind turbines present, i.e. wind turbines will not inhibit aerial fire fighting. He referred people to the APAC document (Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council position paper on wind farms and emergency management, 2018) .There was some discussion of the adequacy of the cleared area around each turbine and the proposed pruning of trees nearest the base of the turbine.
  • Sound – The Commissioner said that the standard of 35DB outside the home is the lowest limit in the world. OSMI said that their noise model is done with the noisiest turbine on the market at the moment, i.e. the worst case scenario but that they are likely to choose a much quieter model. This is best practice.
  • Monitoring and Peer Review of sound measurements – The Commissioner outlined best practice which is to have different independent organisations do the pre- and post- noise testing and that each be audited by a different independent auditor. He agreed that the EPA should do independent monitoring. OSMI indicated that this is the process they will use. They will also cooperate with the community re: background testing and is strongly abiding by the legal requirements.
  • Shadow Flicker – The Commissioner noted that the 30 hours per annum standard has unnecessarily spooked people, because at 1km distance under normal conditions, shadow flicker is closer to five hours per annum. He minimised concerns regarding shadow flicker at 1.5 km.
  • Land prices – in a discussion of windfarm effects on land prices it was argued that most research has been done on rural land and that this does not apply to many of the lifestyle properties around the windfarm. There were differences of view expressed about the price of visual amenity and at least one attendee suggested that a view that includes many of the proposed wind turbines will cause her to leave the district and that she would not have purchased here if she had known of the Delburn proposal. It was pointed out that there are a lot of factors influencing land prices and predictions are speculative.
  • There was some discussion of health effects and concern for the health of children but the commissioner minimised these concerns. He also dismissed concerns regarding ground vibrations.

 

Catheryn Thompson,
Strzelecki Sustainable Futures.