Farmers forum unpacks windfarm issues

28th Nov 2023

The growing interest in wind turbines in New England, and the release of draft planning guidelines by the NSW Department of Planning, saw around one hundred people attend a forum in Guyra last week.
The Guyra branch of the NSW Farmers forum with the theme ‘Thinking of Wind Turbines’, featured a range of speakers with specialist knowledge and real life experiences to help unpack what can be a divisive topic.
The forum was held just a week after new draft wind energy guidelines were released by the Minns government to provide the community, industry and regulators with the "key planning considerations" for wind farms including visual, noise and biodiversity impacts.
Guyra Branch President Beth White said they were really pleased with the turnout and she was especially pleased that the speakers touched on issues that people might not have thought of.
“I think the forum was valuable and it served to make peole more aware of landholder rights when it comes to wind farms that are being built in their neighbourhoods and communities,” she said.
“It was all about empowering people to know what their rights are, to seek information and think about the long term implications before signing.”
Among the speakers was Angus Witherby who is a planner with extensive experience in regulatory requirements, compulsory acquisition and renewables.
Mr Witherby presented a series of check lists for people to consider if they are planning to host turbines, if they were considering signing a neighbour agreement or were otherwise impacted.
He told those present that there is no doubt you need a specialist lawyer to draft up any agreement, and to anticipate what may happen into the future.
Some of the things to consider are rates, public indemnity insurance, land use options, remediation clauses, income sharing arrangements and legal expenses.
The second speaker for the night was George Papadopoulos who was able to give a lived experience with the turbines.
Mr Papadopoulos expressed some concerns that the new guidelines were not properly considering some of the very low frequency noise that emanates from the turbines.
He personally suffered some health issues and has further investigated and reported on a swathe of Australian Wind projects and their side effects.
Cameron Way looked at the investment in renewables from a risk point of view. While there is certainly a financial upside to hosting - that must be balanced with a considered exploration of the whole range of costs.
Cameron also floated
some interesting alternative renewable strategies, site suggestions and he exposed changes to turbine technology not covered in selection of Renewable Energy Zones.
Matt Riley from NSW Planning unpacked the planning departments Draft Wind Guidelines for these developments.
Obviously while there is considerable polarisation in community views on Turbines, there are also a plethora of third party impacts for which the planners have to account, through these Renewable Guidelines.
All speakers saw merit in Wind Energy but the disagreement comes, as to the appropriate accountability, responsibility and placement for these turbines and the subsequent requirement for Transmission and storage.
NSW Farmers are encouraging people to have their say in responding to the draft guidelines.
The Department of Planning will be in Armidale on Friday at Ex Services to explain new guidelines.