Wind farm setback laws not uniform across states

The proposed Willatook wind farm has been reduced to a hundred wind turbines in light of 2km setback laws, as the controversial Gullen Range wind farm continues construction.

The Victorian wind farm was originally intended to contain 200 wind turbines but this was later reduced to 145 turbines and has since been revised again. The news comes as Gullen Wind Farm, about 20km West of Goulburn NSW, continues to attract dissatisfaction from locals.

Some of the controversial turbines of Gullen Wind Farm
Some of the controversial turbines of Gullen Wind Farm

The reason for the Willatook changes is a combination of 2km setback laws, and higher efficiency 3 megawatt-plus turbines. As a result, the proposed wind farm won’t need as many turbines or cover as much land as previously thought.

Victoria imposed the legislation that a wind turbine must be 2km from an existing dwelling except where a landowner has given written consent. The Upper Lachlan Council, as part of its Development Control Plan for wind farms, also declared that there should be 2km distance between a turbine and a dwelling.  However, in NSW, when a development is valued at over $30 million, it becomes a state significant development, and hence local councils can be overridden.

As a result, there are 32 non- involved residents within 1.5km, 60 within 2km and 118 within 3km. Apart from the visual pollution, nearby residents of wind farms are set to suffer devalued property and adverse health impacts.

Thomas, a farmer in the Upper Lachlan Shire, can now see two separate wind farms from his home. In the next few years, there may be more to come, with a wind farm proposed for Biala. He commented that: “2km setback laws are an absolute minimum, we’d prefer 5km“.

In 2010, a court sided against local objectors, ruling that the enforcement of the 2km setback laws was not appropriate for this form of development, as a large number of turbines would have to be omitted. Goldwind, the developers, were given the option of acquiring 13 properties or removing some turbines from the plan.

This latest development in Willatook highlights the lack of cohesion between governments, and the local landholders who stand to be affected.

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