Reflection on JOUR101 news blog

When I began blogging, I started off researching general ‘environmental’ stories. This began with my first post Leadership conference inspires students, which was about a leadership conference with a heavy focus on environmental change.

However, as I began researching further into environmental issues, I came across an issue close to my own experience: wind turbines in NSW. I’ve learnt a lot by researching and interviewing the issue. In my opinion, it is absolutely an issue that deserves more coverage in the media, especially the local opinion and reasoning.

My posts about wind turbines are:

Wind farm setback laws not uniform across states

Wind turbines see local land devalued by up to 60%

Neighbour threatens to sue wind turbine hosts

My interview for my profile story, The reality of living near wind turbines: a profile, was a turning point. Charley Barber, my interviewee, is highly knowledgeable in this area, and has first hand experience in the conflicts that arise in communities due to wind farm development.

My photo story is A Local Perspective was also interesting to put together. It is the first time I have done something like this and it has been a good experience.

Blogging has been an interesting and valuable experience that  has taught me skills that will be useful throughout my journalistic career. I look forward to continuing my degree.

Neighbour threatens to sue wind turbine hosts

A Collector farmer threatens to sue neighbors if they lease their properties for wind turbines.

Tony Hodgson sent 8 letters to his neighbours who are likely to host the turbines, warning them that he would sue them for the adverse affects upon his property. Hodgson, who is president of anti-wind farm group Friends of Collector, will be closely located to the 63 turbines that are proposed by RATCH Australia  for the Collector area, approximately 40 minutes north of Canberra.

Sub station of the Gullen Range wind farm. People in the Collector region may soon be seeing a wind farm in their own region
Sub station of the Gullen Range wind farm. People in the Collector region may soon be seeing a wind farm in their own region

Hodgson’s lawyers advised him that there was substantial precedent to sue people for accepting turbines onto their properties due to potential negative effects upon neighboring properties.

The letters outlined how if the recipients were to accept the development, they could be liable for any damages and personal injury that may ensue. The letters also warned that consent for the development was not a defense against legal action.

However, Gary Poile, a potential turbine host, dismissed the letters as bullying tactics. He is confident that  RATCH Australia will deal with the legal threats, despite the fact that they are directed at landholders, rather than the company itself.

Karen, a local, commented that: “there seems to be next to no consideration of people living on properties next to turbines. Maybe suing is one of the only ways to draw attention to the issue”.

This development comes as a recent report discovered that properties located near wind farms can potentially lose up to 60% of their value. The 8 letters are the second batch in two years sent to Hodgson’s neighbors. He has so far received no response from any of the recipients.

Collector wind farm was recommended for approval by the NSW Department of Planning in September this year. If approved, it will join a growing number of other wind farms in the region, including ones at Gullen Range, Gunning and Crookwell. A recent report predicted there may soon be as many as 3000 wind turbines within a 90 km radius of Goulburn.

The reality of living near wind turbines: a profile

Charley Barber has seen enormous changes since he first moved to the area in 2001, not the least of which is the construction of Gullen Range wind farm just beyond the borders of his property, about half an hour west of Goulburn, where he and his partner breed horses. Mr Barber has had no communication with Goldwind, the company behind the Gullen Range wind farm, at any stage of the development process.”They have never communicated with me directly”, he said. The lack of communication between developers has angered many locals, who feel they have been ignored during the process.

Charley Barber at the border of his property, looking directly into the wind farm's sub station
Charley Barber at the border of his property, looking directly into the wind farm’s sub station

Mr Barber has invested heavily in developing his property and estimates its current worth to be $1 million. However, he has halted further plans for an extension because of extreme concerns about the devaluation of the property. As he commented, “I’m not prepare to spend a cent on it”.  A recent report has revealed that Mr Barber’s concerns are warranted, with properties near wind farms being devalued by up to 60%.

Mr Barber fears that when he wishes to sell the property, he may be selling it for $400000 less than the property is worth. Mr Barber and his partner are instead currently planting thousands of trees around the property, in the hope that they will screen against the wind turbines that are under construction just across his borders. The closest turbine is only 1.8 km from his home. Upon Gullen Wind  farm’s completion, it will be the most closely settled wind farm in Australia, according to Mr Barber.

Apart from the loss of visual amenity, Mr Barber is also concerned about the potential health impacts of living so close to the turbines. As well as the flicker effect, where at certain times of day, the sun flickers because the blades of the turbines intercept it, the most common reason people complain of living near wind turbines is infra sound. Infra sound is sound that is below the regular range of human hearing and is associated with physiological effects such as headaches, concentration and memory problems. Mr Barber commented that the the general attitude of the government and the large corporations that install the wind turbines seems to be “what you can’t hear can’t hurt you”.

Mr Barber is also concerned about the impact the increasing numbers of turbines in the area upon the local community as a whole. He fears that millions of dollars will be ripped out of the Crookwell economy. Particularly, he fears that social capital in the region will no longer be invested in, and that “some farmers are not going to be able to sell their properties for the real value”.

Gullen wind farm under construction
Gullen wind farm under construction

Charley Barber is one of the growing number of people around the country who are being impacted by the installation of wind turbines in close proximity to their homes. He exemplifies the dysfunctional relationship between rural landowners and big business, and the unique set of problems renewable energy is posing to this country.