Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Community Affairs References Committee
29/03/2011
Social and economic impact of rural wind farms

CHAIR —Welcome. I understand the information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses’ evidence has been given to you.

Mr Warren —Yes.

CHAIR —We have copies if you need a little update of that information. Thank you. We have received your submission as No. 67. I invite you to make an opening statement. You know the drill. We will then ask you questions.

Mr Marsh —Thank you. We would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to present before it today. The Clean Energy Council is the peak body representing Australia’s renewable and clean energy industries. We have more than 500 members across Australia. It is a national organisation. We are committed to coordinate the development of clean energy technologies and deployment of clean energy technologies and to facilitate effective legislation and regulation to encourage the development of these technologies as quickly as possible.

In relation to wind energy, which is one of the technologies we represent, we recently commissioned modelling by Sinclair Knight Merz-McLennan Magasanik Associates. They project that, under the mandatory renewable energy target legislation, we expect to see the equivalent of 17,000 full-time jobs in construction in renewable energy projects over the next decade and 1,600 full-time jobs, many of these in regional Australia.

Our research shows that there is extensive support for wind farms across Australia, including in regional Australia and the regions where they are deployed. More than 90 per cent of Australians surveyed indicate their support for the technology. The New South Wales government recently commissioned similar research and found strong support in regions and communities where turbines have been deployed.

Just to clarify that, wind farms displace fossil fuel generation and do provide greenhouse gas emission abatement. An average sized wind farm of 1,500 megawatts will displace from 150 to 450 kilotonnes of CO2 per annum, which is 98 per cent. Only two per cent of the embodied energy in a wind farm goes to its construction; the rest is abated.

The wind industry currently complies with standards and guidelines that are among the most stringent in the world. We have learnt from the experiences out of Europe and adapted and developed planning approval processes that are world’s best practice, and our member companies adhere to those standards.

We have recently, with other companies, conducted and collated research on modern wind turbines. That has shown that the levels of low-frequency noise and infrasound are within acceptable thresholds. Testing has shown that there is no peer-review scientific data to suggest that the levels of low-frequency noise or infrasound emitted by wind turbines make humans sick.

Finally, just to clarify that, the National Health and Medical Research Council recently found that there is currently no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects. Thank you.

Senator FIELDING —So what do you say to those people that are suffering health problems and are living near wind turbines?

Mr Warren —It is quite clear, from seeing their evidence and the complaints they make, that they are sick, that what they are feeling is real for them. But we need to be clear about that causal relationship. There is no evidence to suggest that that is caused by wind turbines. There are relationships with stress, and there are relationships with a range of other social phenomenon and other concerns that are related to this, but we have no evidence that it is caused by the turbines themselves.

Senator FIELDING —You have not done any research on that yourselves directly, have you, at all on the health impacts?

Mr Warren —We commission research and collate it. This research is not new. This technology has been around for 30 years. We collated all the scientific research conduct around the world to provide it to the Australian public for the debate. There is no evidence, in 30 years of research.

Senator FIELDING —In your submission, you oppose any minimum setback or distance from wind turbines in relation to a person’s home. How did you come up with that position?

Mr Warren —There are a few things to understand about wind turbines. The first is that there are already planning approval processes in place. The second is that, if you think about a wind farm and a community, in every situation it will be slightly different. There are different prevailing winds. There are different setbacks and different distances. There is different geography and topography. So to mandate, say, two kilometres assumes that every location for a wind farm is identical, and that is not the case. So they need to be assessed. Rather than setting them on kilometres, they need to be assessed on audible noise, which is what they are currently assessed on. You need to be able to set the wind farms back far enough so that they are below the thresholds required under the guidelines.

Senator FIELDING —What factors would you use to determine what the setback should be? I know you are saying it should be on a case-by-case basis. What factors would you use?

Mr Warren —Measured audible noise.

Senator FIELDING —Why measured audible noise?

Mr Warren —Because that is the measurable, known standard by which a wind turbine can impact on a household. You cannot hear it.

Senator FIELDING —What about non-audible noise? Would you use that as a factor? You just told me it was just going to be audible noise.

Mr Warren —That is right. We have done research on non-audible noise. The inaudible noise, the infrasound emitted by a wind turbine, is lower than or the same as you would hear from a main road and lower than or the same as you would hear from an ocean. If infrasound caused people to be ill, then everybody living on the esplanades of the major cities in Australia would be suffering from the same complaint that people living near wind farms claim.

Senator FIELDING —What about shadow flicker?

Mr Warren —Shadow flicker—that is audible noise.

Senator FIELDING —Shadow flicker; is that audible noise?

Mr Warren —It is either audible noise or inaudible noise.

Senator FIELDING —So shadow flicker should not determine setbacks?

Mr Warren —If can you hear it, it is audible noise and it is measurable.

Senator FIELDING —Okay.

Senator BOYCE —Shadows going over.

Senator FIELDING —I did not want to really state the bleeding obvious, but yes.

CHAIR —Can we finish that?

Mr Marsh —We have not got a position on shadow flicker itself. The point is that there would be a number of variables that you would want to set into the guidelines for setting the wind farm. You cannot necessarily mandate that it should be two kilometres or it should be this or it should be that. But do it on a case-by-case basis. We do not have a position on what a setback or what a reasonable standard for shadow flicker would be. You may want to include that within the guidelines. You would say, ‘Okay, these are the things you might need to measure and be looking at when you are setting the planning approval.’

Senator FIELDING —Do you know what level is considered unsafe for someone’s health for audible noise and inaudible noise and for shadow flicker?

Mr Marsh —For audible noise, we know the World Health Organisation are setting 40 dBAs as around the level, and we know that at the moment the standards in Australia set noise below that. I do not have the figures for inaudible noise on me. We can certainly come back to you on that.

Senator FIELDING —Do you know why those numbers are set anyway? Are they for health and safety issues or are they because people are worried about the ambience noise?

Mr Marsh —As I understand it, obviously the audible ones are set at about the level you can hear it; so it is to do with what can you hear from a certain distance away.

Senator FIELDING —No further questions, thank you.

CHAIR —Senator Adams.

Senator ADAMS —I would like to carry on with that, thank you. As far as your members go, do you have guidelines relating to the audible noise? For every home that is in close proximity to your members’ turbines, can you tell me the process that is used? Who has actually checked the noise?

Mr Marsh —We do not. Obviously each individual planning application will have those figures in there and it will be up to the individual companies to conform to those standards and to do the measurements.

Senator ADAMS —As we have gone around, we have had a number of submitters say that the noise unfortunately has not been measured during the night. Some of it has been very ad hoc, the way it has been done. You are telling us that that setback should be X. These people are members of your organisation. What proof have you got that it has been done properly? How do you govern that? What do you do?

Mr Marsh —It is not our role to govern that. The role is obviously that of the individual planning jurisdictions to set those standards, to monitor them and to take action if they are not being complied with. It is not a role of the Clean Energy Council to monitor any of those issues.

Mr Warren —We are not a regulatory authority; we are an industry association.

Senator ADAMS —I realise that. I am fully aware of that. You have just come out and told us. We have asked about the setback and you have said, ‘This is what it is.’ We have had evidence that it is definitely not being carried out in that respect. We have certainly had evidence against a number of the organisations that you have listed here as your members. As an organisation, what are you going to do about it?

Mr Warren —An individual household who has those concerns can raise the complaints through the planning approval process and have that tested and checked. Audible noise is relatively straightforward. There are mitigating measures that can take place within individual wind farms if that is found to be above the required thresholds.

Senator ADAMS —We will move on to the planning. As far as planning goes, are you satisfied with the guidelines, and could you comment on the national draft plan guidelines?

Mr Warren —I would start by saying the guidelines are amongst the best in the world. I think the frustration with the debate that we are having before this committee is that we are debating an issue about health and the health effect of wind farms, when I think the real debate in this is about the social impacts and the social and community relationships in those communities.

These wind farms have been developed in Australia in the last decade behind the coalition’s mandatory renewable energy target. There has been mostly broad support for the projects that are developed, with a few individual cases of householders and individuals who do not like them. They are entitled not to like them, and there are a range of reasons why that may be the case. It frustrates us that we are having a discussion about something and, no matter how much evidence we put forward based on the science, there is no proof that it exists. But there is a real issue going on in some of those communities and it is being manifested and heard before this committee.

Senator ADAMS —You are saying ‘based on the science’. What science are you talking about?

Mr Warren —Noise science: the science of what you can hear and what you can measure.

Senator ADAMS —What are you using as that base? You are saying it is scientific evidence. Can you give us an example?

Mr Warren —The body of literature in all science in relation to human health has found no relationship between this technology and human sickness. That does not mean to say—

Senator ADAMS —Sorry, what are you using?

Mr Warren —The National Health and Medical Research Council collated all the best available evidence around the world and found there was no relationship.

Senator ADAMS —Unfortunately in that particular document, of course, the authors are not named, and the peer reviews are just not there for it. You are basing all your evidence upon a document that later we will get, hopefully, some evidence from the NHMRC on. Certainly there are a lot of questions associated with that particular publication. A number of the Canadian and American peer reviewers that are quoted are actually involved with the wind industry. When you delve into the depth of it, you do wonder whether all these issues are right. You are just basing your scientific evidence on that.

Mr Warren —We also commissioned noise experts Sonus to review it. That report has been available to the Senate. These are experts in the field of measuring noise generally—wind noise and its application. Professor Geoff Leventhall made a submission to the Senate. He is from the UK. He is an expert in this area, a noise expert, and he has found no relationship either.

Senator FIELDING —I understand his stuff is also funded by the wind energy industry, like yours is. They are not independent studies.

Mr Warren —I see.

Senator FIELDING —To be fair, they are not independent studies.

CHAIR —I will ask a question around this. Do you know the mechanism for funding? Is it put into a fund that then commissions research, or is the research that is done commissioned directly by the industry? In other words, is it one step removed?

Mr Warren —This is a bit of a catch 22. If there are complaints made about wind noise and its effect on human health, the industry responds by commissioning experts in the field to test the hypothesis. If they do that, you are then accusing the individuals and the experts being hired to do that job of being on the payroll of the industry. How are we supposed to test those claims that are being made? We are not in the business of trying to convey any particular outcome. We are in the business of trying to find out and interrogate what the problem is and to find solutions for it.

CHAIR —I see the point you are making. Having sat on the other side of the table, where you are sitting, in the past and having tried to find that information in the past, there is a degree of cynicism, as you can probably appreciate, as you are hearing here. The reason I was asking that question was that I wanted to know: was the research that was done one step removed? Do you give it to a research foundation that then conducts the research, or do you fund it directly? Have you thought of that as being one step removed, so you get away from the inferences that the community will make?

Mr Warren —We funded ours directly but I would have to take on notice the chain of command for all the different research around the world.

CHAIR —I appreciate that that would be quite a bit of work, if you could give us examples perhaps of where the research has been conducted by a body one step removed and whether it is funded by the industry or not. I very much appreciate the point that you are making: you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. That is the point that you are making, is it not?

Mr Warren —Absolutely. At the end of the day, we rely on experts. The body of evidence that we are calling upon is substantiated by the scientific literature in this field. It is not a small group of hand-picked experts to say certain things. It is the standard science on this. You can infer some sort of control of that process by suggesting mechanisms to fund it, but ultimately we just interrogate the same science and get the same answer, which suggests that something else is happening.

CHAIR —I appreciate what you are saying. But the issue still stands. Whether it is this industry or any other industry, that argument is levelled at industry. I have, in fact, levelled that argument.

Senator MOORE —You have.

CHAIR —So that is why I am asking: has the industry looked at being one step removed from it?

Mr Warren —I am happy to take the advice. We have responded to this current debate by getting some experts to give us some advice. We did not hand-pick them. We went to somebody who was known in the industry and was credible. Frankly, whether you go through an independent agency to commission the same research or not, it does not change the quality and the integrity of that work.

CHAIR —I am not for one minute suggesting that it does. The point is that that accusation can be made. It is the appearance that has to be right. If you could give us some examples of how it was funded et cetera, that would be really useful.

Mr Warren —Okay. We will have to take that on notice.

CHAIR —Sorry, Senator Adams, I interrupted you.

Senator ADAMS —That is all right. I will continue. You stated in your submission that there has not been any devaluation of land around wind farms. Yesterday we heard quite a lot of evidence given by people whose land had been devalued. Could you tell me where you got your evidence from and what surveys you have done of people that are living on or have tried to sell land in close proximity to a wind farm or a proposed wind farm?

Mr Warren —Certainly. The first evidence we tabled with our submission was from the New South Wales Valuer-General who did an assessment of 45 property sales within a 10-kilometre radius of eight wind farm sites in New South Wales. They found that there was no negative effect on property values from those projects.

Senator ADAMS —Have you done any on Victoria?

Mr Warren —No, we have not. That was done by the New South Wales Valuer-General.

Senator ADAMS —I realise that. I am asking you about Victoria.

Mr Marsh —We have not—no, not yet. We have not done any work on Victoria. There are obviously some cases where people have said that their values have gone down. We are also looking at places where there is wind development and house prices are going up. There is not necessarily a direct cause and effect between wind farm development and house prices.

Senator ADAMS —As I said, we have had quite a lot of evidence from individuals who have been trying to sell their property about how it has been devalued. Yesterday was certainly a very good example of that.

Mr Marsh —For example, in the Bridgewater area—

Senator ADAMS —So you are saying that there are none?

Mr Marsh —I did not say that. I said there are areas in Victoria where wind farm development is proposed and house prices are not going down.

Senator ADAMS —As an organisation, seeing you have so many developers involved, would you consider doing a survey on Victorian land prices or contact the Victorian Valuer-General, as far as that goes?

Mr Warren —I think, given the recent discussion we have had, that would make more sense. We have already had one independent assessment, but I think the Victorian Valuer-General would be the appropriate channel for that.

Senator ADAMS —What about South Australia? Have we heard anything in South Australia as far as land prices go?

Mr Warren —Nothing either way.

Senator ADAMS —You have based your whole argument on the New South Wales Valuer-General?

Mr Warren —No. There is also research from the United Kingdom and the US which supports that there is no impact on land values. That is from independent research conducted in those two countries as well.

Senator ADAMS —I am more interested in what is happening in Australia than in the UK. As I said, we are getting local people coming and giving their story. I do not think they are making it up. There is one last thing I would like to talk about. Probably one of the biggest complaints we have had throughout the Senate inquiry is community consultation and how that could improve. If you are a national body and you have all these organisations as members, have you done anything about community consultation when a wind farm is proposed? Do you have any guidelines on how these companies should proceed?

Mr Warren —We have been discussing that issue because we think that issue is the nub of this problem. We are all used to dealing with industrial development in regions as well as in metropolitan areas. Traditionally they have tended to be point sources. Whether it is a mining project or a factory or other infrastructure, they tend to have a highly localised impact that radiates outwards. Wind farms are different. They have a much lower impact but it is more diffuse and spread out across a region or a community. That suggests that applying the traditional rules of community consultation may need to be adjusted and evolved to suit that purpose.

We also hear anecdotally that some of the division caused among landholders in communities is where a landholder is offered leases to lease the wind turbines and their neighbours are not. In small communities, that can create frustration. Those landholders feel disenfranchised because they are proximate to where the turbines are going to be set up but, because they do not host land for that wind farm, they feel the frustration that they were not direct beneficiaries of that process. There is scope already and provision for community funding and support in wind farm development, commensurate and similar to what we have seen with other industries and other project development. The feedback from communities and the nature of some of the problems that arise with individuals and households being frustrated and opposed to the turbines suggest that we need to rethink and do better at the way that we engage with communities in the future.

Senator ADAMS —Is this an issue that is discussed? I do not want to be privy to what you discuss on your board, but for us it seems to be the No. 1 issue coming up.

Mr Warren —It is clear. We have discussed it. I have worked in different industries and companies genuinely make an effort—most companies, most of the time, make a genuine effort—to get this right. We need to learn to share that experience and improve and learn from those shared experiences in different parts of Australia on different projects. I think it is something we can always do better as an industry, just as other industries would say the same thing.

CHAIR —I understand that the ABC will be coming in shortly. It is standard practice for us to check with witnesses whether that is okay.

Mr Warren —That is fine.

CHAIR —It was okay with senators yesterday, so I presume it is okay with senators today.

Senator BOYCE —You talked about how you might have to change community consultation because of the different sorts of layouts or the different footprints of wind farms. Could you flesh that out a bit more. What do you mean?

Mr Warren —The industry does already consult. They consult with the communities in the regions where the projects are developed.

Senator BOYCE —We have agreed it is obviously less than ideal or there would not be quite as much opposition.

Mr Warren —If I had the answers, we would be developing them. It is evolving the way we do it, I think. It is about understanding the feedback from some communities. We should say that, by and large, most of the communities are very effective in community consultation and work very closely with the communities. Some of this feedback from individuals suggests that we need to evolve that process and be smarter and share those experiences and those issues that arise as we develop projects.

Senator BOYCE —How do you balance the commercial need for secrecy with community consultation? That would seem to be an issue.

Mr Warren —That is exactly an issue. It is a challenge. The requirement of commercial confidentiality for the contracts being negotiated with landholders and project developers is two ways. The landholders want that confidentiality as much as the project developers do. At the same time, we need to be cognisant that the practical reality is that a wind farm has a different impact on a region than a mining project, for instance. It is much quieter, it is much safer, but it affects visual impact. There are no standards and rules applying to visual impacts. It tends to be a personal preference. Some of the frustration that is manifested from individuals living in those communities relates to frustrations they cannot really exercise. They can say they do not like the wind farm or they do not like the way it looks, but there is not much relief for that process, so they tend to find relief in issues around noise and other more measurable complaints.

Senator BOYCE —With regard to lifecycle assessment of turbines, it is being suggested that, in fact, they are not as green as might be considered if you take in the whole lifecycle of a turbine. Has the Clean Energy Council done any work on that topic or do you have any evidence around lifecycle assessments of turbines?

Mr Warren —It is in our submission. About two per cent of the energy generated by a turbine in its life is required to manufacture the turbine, so 98 per cent of the energy generated is clean energy.

Senator BOYCE —Have you given us the reference for that? I must admit I missed that.

Mr Warren —That is okay. It is in there. They are making a clear and substantial contribution to reducing greenhouse emissions.

Senator BOYCE —Yesterday there was quite a lot of evidence from councils suggesting that they simply do not have the resources to go about dealing with the planning of wind farm developments. What is Clean Energy Council’s view here? 

Mr Warren —Planning approvals tend to be a state jurisdiction, especially for major infrastructure. We tend to think that is appropriate because councils do not have the resources to make these decisions and, like other infrastructure and the debate that we have about this type of development, you need to take a broader view about the local community requirements and the local conditions and the broader need for a certain project or development. Equally we would say that, in relation to uplifting that to the national level, the national government has no jurisdiction over this process. You can have national guidelines but, ultimately, the state level is where this should fall.

Senator BOYCE —The Clean Energy Council would prefer that the state government undertook the planning. There was also the comment made that there simply were not enough resources or expertise outside the industry any longer. The comment was made that all the experts that a council might use to check a planning proposal were working for the industry. What is the response of the council to that claim?

Mr Marsh —I had not heard that point directly but that may be the case. Clearly, if the councils need the resources to manage the planning applications, those resources need to be found from somewhere. Our view is that the state level is the best place for the assessment of planning approval for wind farms to occur.

Senator BOYCE —Thank you.

Senator MOORE —Mr Warren, in terms of your role as the industry council, it seems that you are often the public face for the whole industry, as opposed to representing an independent proponent. Do you agree with that?

Mr Warren —Yes.

Senator MOORE —There is now a body of community response, and we saw one slice of that yesterday where the people came because they had a forum to talk about why they hated the industry and what the industry had done to them. We had a wide range of people from people who had documented evidence that wind farms do not work, and a book to prove that, to people who spoke about their individual health impacts, which were tragic, absolutely—and no-one doubts that. Has there been a public process to bring together organisations like yours that represent the whole industry and those people who do not to have an open discussion?

One of the other issues raised consistently was the lack of transparency. It was being portrayed as big business versus individual, healthy citizens, and that was the dynamic that we were getting. That is a very difficult thing to respond to. In an attempt to be part of the public debate, how does the industry organisation respond to that? 

Mr Warren —First of all, I note with some curiosity that the renewable energy industry is being portrayed now as big business and big industry.

Senator MOORE —Absolutely.

Mr Warren —It is, in a sense, an important step forward. It reflects that the industry is stepping up to the scale that is required to deliver on the challenges facing us in the 21st century. That is a responsibility we do not shy away from. We are going to have that increasingly over time and that is something we need to live with.

Your point was well made. There have been individual local forums where companies and project developers have met with community members but there has not been a broader stage where that has been played out, to my recollection.

Mr Marsh —I want to say two things. Firstly, we have thought about it for a long time. Going back to your point about when we commission research, it is quite difficult for us to try to set up some kind of meeting between, effectively, the pros and the antis. We are not the right organisation to do that, as we will sit on one side of the fence. What has worked very well in another state, New South Wales, is that the previous government set up their renewable energy precincts. They identified six areas in New South Wales which were going to be prime sites for renewables generally but winds specifically. Through that process, they basically had meetings in every precinct. I actually went to represent the Clean Energy Council at those. That was the New South Wales government’s attempt to try to pull together the various views. It worked at one level.

One of the difficult problems with all these—and I think some of the people who have done community forums before find this—is that they are always inevitably dominated by a very small amount of antis. I did six events in New South Wales and pretty much you could guarantee that you would know two or three people in the audience. The same people would turn up.

It actually ended up not necessarily being a discussion with the community about the pros and cons of a particular project or the technology, but effectively a fight between those who had evidence that they thought proved that wind farms did not work and those who had evidence that proved that wind farms did. Whilst I think there may be a desire for a better discussion on these issues, it is quite difficult to construct a forum to make sure you are getting all the people in the community who may have an interest, be they pros or be they antis. It tends to be that if you are against something, you turn up to say you are against it. You very rarely get people actually turning up to say they are in support of something. It is a very difficult discussion to try to construct in the right way.

Senator MOORE —It follows in the role of many others. The negative process which we have now is because of the pain that is out there. Very negative comparisons are being drawn publicly. We heard yesterday comparisons to tobacco, comparisons to asbestos, which press all the buttons. What we are trying to struggle to get some process that actually allows people to have information so they can make up their own minds.

Your guidelines, the guidelines which I asked a previous witness about, are dated 2006. That, in itself, is a bit concerning. There has been significant activity in this country since 2006, yet the guidelines to which we are directed about community engagement and planning, and the role of industry, have a date that makes little bells ring. I am from Queensland, where this debate has not been in the field as much yet. There still is this great gap in terms of knowledge and information.

Yesterday, people gave evidence that they were originally supportive. At least two people gave evidence yesterday that, when the first project was announced in their region, they were supportive, thinking it was a great thing. Their evidence is that since they have been living with the turbines their minds have changed. To me, that is a really significant issue. People yesterday said to us, ‘Unless you have lived here, you should not have an opinion.’ That is a very big gap for industry to cover. I do not know whether you want to respond to that. I would love to have something on record about it.

Mr Marsh —In terms of the guidelines, we are in the process of looking at those and how they can be updated to reflect the fact that they were written in 2006 and things have moved on. We are in the process of looking at how we can do that.

Mr Warren —I have two observations. Firstly, I was in the US last year and states like California are progressing very quickly with large-scale solar projects ahead of or faster than wind now. They are finding the same community issues arising with large-scale solar. There are different issues arising. As to the shock of the new, change drives resistance by communities, particularly in some regions. This is not unique to wind, and it is something we need to address if we are going to de-carbonise the economy as quickly as possible.

Secondly, there is a lot of emotion in this debate. There are a lot of people being made afraid. We have evidence of people living near wind turbines and wind projects who are quite supportive of it and who very recently, because of some of the fear and some of the concerns being raised by individuals in this debate—which are not based on any science or evidence, nevertheless it is compelling to some people and makes them feel anxious—complained that they are now ill when they were not ill before. The effect of having this discussion can instil concern and divide communities even further. One of our deep concerns is that there is a lot of misinformation out there. There are a lot of claims and statements, which are not backed by science, by individuals who claim to have scientific pedigrees and backgrounds that we do not think are substantiated. There are people who genuinely feel sick and genuinely have concerns about this, and they are real. We need to address those concerns.

The problem is that it is being exacerbated by the way that this is being executed. That is a great frustration for us. We are not having the discussion we need to have about communities and what their expectations are. In some places, individuals have chosen to live in a region or community because of the way it looks, feels and acts and that has been changed by the presence of a wind farm. We need to acknowledge that. It does not mean we sterilise the entire south-eastern corner of Australia because every time someone does not like them we do not proceed. We need to acknowledge those changes and think about how we are going to address them. We are going to have this challenge repeatedly with different technologies over the future.

CHAIR —You made a comment that the planning and decision making should be at a state government level. Yesterday we heard about the new process operating in Victoria where all wind farms are now going to be assessed at local government level rather than the previous situation, as I understand it, where 30-megawatt was the divide. I understood yesterday from our local government representatives that they were not consulted on that recent policy decision. Was your organisation consulted? What level of consultation was undertaken or enacted before that decision was made?

Mr Marsh —I am not aware of any detailed consultation. The position that the current government have taken was in their manifesto. It was known that that was going to be their position and we, as others did, wrote in and responded that we did not like it, for various reasons. There was no formal consultation with us on that particular policy.

CHAIR —You would be aware that the evidence that was given yesterday was that local government did not have the resources or the expertise to make those decisions.

Mr Marsh —We heard before the new policy was announced that local government would have been concerned about taking it back because they did not have the resources to deal with it.

CHAIR —Has that been your experience?

Mr Marsh —Certainly that is what they have been telling us.

CHAIR —I want to go back to the infrasound issue. Mr Warren, I think you made the comment that it is the same infrasound levels for roads or oceans. We received similar evidence last Friday. I am wondering who did those measurements. Have you, as an organisation, done the measurements? Have you commissioned measurements to be done? We had evidence last week that infrasound is the same for a wind farm as an ocean.

Mr Marsh —The work that we are referring to was commissioned from Sonus.

CHAIR —The Sonus work?

Mr Marsh —Yes, a number of pieces of work from Sonus. This was commissioned from Sonus. It looked at infrasound specifically and took measures of infrasound in different places.

CHAIR —My last question is about the planning issue. You made a comment about state level decisions. We had a lot of evidence yesterday that suggested that people wanted national guidelines or a nationally consistent approach, because it is different between state governments and, in fact, between local governments. Have you got a response or any thoughts on that?

Mr Warren —A nationally consistent approach is appropriate. Ultimately, the most appropriate place for planning approvals for all infrastructure, including wind farms or other major projects, is at the state level. That is where we think it ideally rests.

CHAIR —So national guidelines or a nationally consistent approach, but decision making at the state government level?

Mr Warren —We have that already. What we do not want to see is an overlay of two different sets of guidelines, one on top of the other. National consistency at the state level is the ideal approach.

CHAIR —I think it would be a fair reflection to say that the evidence we received yesterday would suggest that, while we are developing national guidelines and have a national approach, in fact it is not being implemented consistently.

Mr Marsh —I think that will always be the case. You will know, as well as most, how these national things have to work. It has to go through a process of being approved by the states. The states last year agreed that they wanted to have these national guidelines consulted on for another year—until later this year. The difficulty is always going to be that the states will always have the final say and to get agreement across all of the states that they all want to go in the same direction on this issue is going to be incredibly difficult, if not impossible.

CHAIR —Thank you. I think you took a little bit of homework on board. I think you were going to table some further documents or get us some further information. That would be appreciated. If you could get it to us in the next couple of weeks, that would be great.

Proceedings suspended from 10.30 am to 10.48 am