Category Archives: JOUR101

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.

Wind turbines see local land devalued by up to 60%

A new report has found that residents near wind turbines in the Southern Tablelands stand to lose up to 60% of the value of their properties.

The study contradicts the 2009 study on behalf of the NSW Valuer General which concluded that there was no evidence to suggest that properties nearby wind turbines suffered devaluation.

Charley Barber, who lives on a property backing onto the Gullen Wind Farm, has invested heavily in building and renovating his home, but has cancelled any future development because of the imposing wind farm. As he commented, it would be “throwing good money after bad”.

Gullen wind farm sub station
Gullen wind farm sub station

Peter Reardon, a property valuer in the Southern Tablelands for 15 years, coordinated the report on behalf of concerned landholders in the area. The report details the potential for landowners near wind turbines to see their property’s value discounted by between 33% and 60%.

Reardon highlights the issues of land holders of farming properties that view the eventual subdivision of their properties as a form of superannuation, as well as local ‘prestige properties’, which will no longer be as valuable.

He also comments on the large number of property buyers in the are who are ‘tree changers’ who want properties for leisure and have  “become the main driving force in setting values in the Southern Tablelands over recent years, and provides significant economic benefits, especially to many smaller rural communities”.

A preliminary study was conducted in 2012 but was inconclusive due to lack of market evidence. The new study surveyed prominent real estate agents in Goulburn, as well as compared the selling prices of properties affected by wind farm development and those not.

Approximately half of all proposed wind farms for NSW are located within 90km of Goulburn, meaning the potential for 3000 wind turbines to saturate the area.

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.

Leadership conference inspires students

The UOW  Students 4 Students National Leadership conference was underway over the weekend, attracting aspiring leaders from across the country and high profile speakers.

The high profile leaders came from a range backgrounds, including charities, multi-national companies, successful University of Wollongong graduates and action groups. They included Viv Benjamin, CEO of the Oaktree FoundationMichael Laverty, managing director of the Australian short film festival Tropfest and Jon Dee, the co-founder of Planet Ark and part of a multitude of initiatives in Australia and around the world.

Isaac Astill, Bob Brown’s 2013 Young Environmentalist of the Year , was one of the speakers to focus on issues to do with renewable energy and climate change. He commented about the decline in Australian debate about these issues.

Students were given the opportunity to interact with leaders such as Andrew Macleod, a former aid worker and business leader and Nikki Lovell, founder of One Village through a Q and A panel.

Young leaders worked in groups to solve local issues
Young leaders worked in groups to solve local issues

The conference, held on the 28th and 29th of September, was coordinated by University of Wollongong UniCentre Centre for Student Engagement students and aimed to inspire tertiary students to explore leadership opportunities. The theme for this year’s conference was “Change: It only takes one”. Students participated in lectures, workshops, networking activities and ‘change challenges’, where students attempted to come up with solutions for local environmental issues.

Misha, a UOW student in her first year of a law degree, and Vice President of the UOW Rotaract Club, said she “think(s) it’s important for young leaders to get together and share their inspiration”.  “It really empowered me to find a purpose and convinced me that it’s worthwhile” the active young leader said of the conference.

The conference concluded with a gala dinner at Innovation Campus. A raffle and auction helped to raise money for the conference’s charity partner, the Oaktree Foundation. The conference is in its 7th year this year.