AN EVER-GROWING group of Mortlake and district residents have taken a stand against a wind farm proposal with concerns about visual impact and insufficient consultation at the top of a long list of grievances.
Representatives of the recently-formed Mortlake and District Wind Farm Action Group spoke at Moyne Shire Council’s Ordinary Meeting last week with the support of 277 individually signed letters in opposition to the proposal, with the number now at about 350.
The proposal proponent, Tasmania-based Woolnorth Wind Farm Holding Pty Ltd, has entered the final process of planning, with the planning permit set to be sent to the State Minister for Planning over the coming weeks.
The proposal includes 87 wind turbines with a maximum blade tip height of 200 metres, with the wind farm covering 14 properties from within five kilometres of Mortlake to near the Mount Fyans property.
Once the Minister for Planning receives the permit application, residents would have the chance to make a submission for a minimum of 14 days.
Mortlake resident Lachlan Cumming said the project would impact the entire Mortlake community.
“The proposal has been strategically named Mount Fyans so as to mislead a whole community on the area of land involved,” he said.
“Whether one has a house in Mortlake, a lifestyle block of land or a working farm in surrounding areas, the entire community is being impacted by this major proposal.”
Mr Cumming said consultation from Woolnorth Wind Farms and the greater community had been “near non-existent”.
“Until the last couple of weeks, basically only a tiny minority – including those who would be in line to host this proposal – have known specific detail about it, resulting in a complete lack of regard for recognition of wider public knowledge and opinion,” he said.
“Publicity from both the Moyne Shire and Woolnorth has been minimal and definitely not far-reaching.
“We are in the dark to a lot of detail.”
Mr Cumming requested the council conduct a community meeting to gauge the community’s stance on the proposal, rather than the creation of a Community Engagement Committee.
“Do not try to engage the community with a committee including slippery wind farm representatives,” he said.
“The community has already been engaged for you.
“They do have a voice – simply listen and help. Call a public meeting now to gauge it for yourselves.”
Shire acting chief executive officer Kevin Leddin said the council’s role would be to inform the Minister for Planning of the community’s concerns.
“It is important to keep in mind that no application has been filed by the wind farm’s proponents as yet,” he said.
“Once an application is lodged with the State Government, Moyne Shire’s role will be facilitating community engagement, including public meetings to ensure that the community’s concerns are raised with the minister.”
With a farm about 1.5 kilometres from a wind turbine as outlined in the proposal, Lisa Parker said the project would have a number of long-lasting consequences for her and her family for the greater region.
One of the major concerns she raised at last week’s Ordinary Meeting was the turbines would have an “insurmountable impact” on future firefighting efforts.
“I believe the Mount Fyans Wind Farm will have a huge impact on the Mortlake and surrounding community,” she said.
“The wind turbines take away our quickest, most accurate and most effective method of firefighting – the aircraft, such as fixed-wing aircraft and heli-tankers.
“I have been speaking with a fixed-wing firefighter pilot, who along with other pilots will not fight fires in the wind farm areas due to safety issues.”
Mrs Parker’s other concerns about the proposal included the impact the site’s construction works would have on local roads and the danger it may pose to children using local bus services.
Mortlake resident Paul Herry echoed sentiments the project had been developed with insufficient consultation and misleading tactics.
“Until recently the Mount Fyans Wind Farm project was thought by the community of Mortlake to be many kilometres north-east of the town,” he said.
“However, like all projects relating to construction of these farms, implementation has been done by stealth.”
Mr Herry said the economic health of the town would drop considerably if the proposal went ahead.
“Market value of all properties will decrease on a sliding scale from significant to marginal, but all will be affected,” he said.
“Prime agricultural land will become untenable, thus reducing farming incomes.”
With a property near Hexham, Leanne McDonald said the proposal and its effects had come as a shock.
“We’ve had no consultation, when we contacted Woolnorth, the first thing they did was offer us turbines,” she said.
“We don’t want turbines. Now we have a turbine 50 metres off our fence line.
“For us, we’re not anti wind farm; we’re just anti wind farm in such a populated area that’s going to affect so many people.”
Following the public presentations, Moyne Shire councillor Jim Doukas said council needed to ensure sufficient information was provided to Mortlake and district residents as soon as possible.
The group also took the letters to a community meeting with Member for Polwarth Richard Riordan last Thursday.
He said groups representing residents from a number of areas in opposition to wind farm proposals and infrastructure attended the meeting.
Their grievances included insufficient monitoring of proposals to ensure they are compliant with current requirements and a lack of planning requirements, especially around the construction of transmission lines.
“They (the concerned community members)are looking to establish a network,” Mr Riordan said.
“They are feeling unheard.”
Woolnorth Wind Farms project development manager Michael Hogan said the company was aware of the community’s worries and aimed to open up a conversation soon.
“Through our engagement with the community, we have become aware of various views and issues that are causing concerns,” he said.
“We are open to respectful discussion on any matter relating to the wind farm and encourage people to contact us.”
To keep up-to-date with the group’s efforts, visit the ‘Mortlake and District Wind Farm Action Group’ Facebook page.