ACT News

Collector and Tarago residents take wind farm protest to the Assembly

Residents of Collector and Tarago took their opposition to wind farms to the ACT Assembly on Tuesday, staging a protest outside and calling on the ACT Government not to fund wind farms they say would destroy their property values and views.

Terry Lovelock, a former Sydney builder, bought a 100 hectare farm at Collector as a retirement project and built a house on the block. The property was all they had, he said, but with plans for an array of 55 giant wind turbines on the ridge behind the property, 1 km from their boundary and 2 km from their house, the value would be badly affected.

"[The turbines] are just going to stand out like white cockatoos at the back of our house, and nobody's going to want to buy the thing," he said.

"When we try to retire, this is all the money we've got. So if we get 50 per cent or 40 per cent or 20 per cent less than what it's worth who is going to support us? And they are not the most beautiful things to look at are they, particularly when they're just outside your back door."

Mr Lovelock, who has hypertension, is also worried about health impacts for turbine noise.

The Collector wind farm is being built by Thai company Ratch on a neighbouring property, called Lerida, which Mr Lovelock said was owned by an absentee Sydney landlord. The project is one of 18 wind farms to submit bids for a 20-year feed-in tariff from the ACT Government and has received planning approval.

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The Tarago wind farm has also sparked vocal protest in the community, along the Goulburn-Braidwood road. An Australian-Spanish joint venture is proposing the 110 turbine wind farm on the properties of 25 landholders.

Residents of small towns at Lake Bathurst, Tarago, Mayfield, Boro, Mount Fairy and Manar are campaigning against the $400 million development proposed for 12,000 hectares, expected to be considered by NSW planning authorities in coming months.

ACT Environment Minister Simon Corbell told the Assembly the residents were taking their message to the wrong government.

"With respect I would suggest they shouldn't be protesting on London Circuit, they should be protesting on Macquarie Street because the approval was granted by the NSW Planning Commission and it was granted under the watch of the Liberal National coalition government."

Residents Against Jupiter Wind Turbines spokesman Michael Crawford said he was pleased Mr Corbell was aware of the community concerns. 

Dr Crawford is a board member of the anti-wind farm group the Waubra Foundation. 

"He obviously tried to flick pass the issue to the New South Wales Government and it is certainly that government who will give planning approval for these things, but at the same time it is the ACT Government who is going to fund them," he said. 

"We have a conflict with both the NSW Government and the ACT in terms of their activities." 

Liberal backbencher Nicole Lawder tabled petitions from the communities with more than 80 signatures in the Assembly on Tuesday.

The president of a group called NSW Landscape Guardians, Humphrey Price-Jones, who lives beside the Gullen range wind farm at Crookwell, said the Government was doing incalculable damage to rural heritage and amenity by imposing "vast industrial estates" on country communities.

"I would not wish wind turbine generation on anyone, but if the ACT is hell bent on accessing wind turbine power then why on earth not build it in their own back yard? Why impose them on rural communities in NSW?"

But Frank Ross, who runs a bookshop in Collector, said it was a cop out for Mr Corbell to suggest it was a NSW issue.

The wind farm would not be built without funding from the ACT Government, he said. Mr Corbell also drew attention to the big weighting given to community engagement in assessing the bids for funding – 20 per cent of the score for each bid is given for community engagement and another 20 per cent for economic benefit to the ACT region.

Mr Ross said he had resigned from the Collector community forum set up by Ratch because the company was whitewashing community concerns and misrepresenting the meetings in its reports to government.

"It's about big business and lobbyists stomping on communities," he said, rejecting the claim that wind farms would bring economic activity to local communities.

The construction jobs were highly specialists and would not be filled by locals, the servicing jobs would also go elsewhere, and the community funding of $200,000 a year would go to the Upper Lachlan Council, and was unlikely to find its way back to Collector, he said.

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