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 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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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 isinfra 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”.
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.
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”.
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.
The Gullen Range wind farm continues to cause conflict in the area. This photo story outlines how exactly these turbines are set to impact upon the local community. The landscapes depicted have become everyday views for some residents.
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.
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.
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 Foundation, Michael 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.
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.