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Social and economic impact of rural wind farms

CHAIR —Welcome.. We have a list of 28 names so that will take a little while to move through that list. I suggest that we call you up to the table in bunches of five in the order that your name appears on the list, which was done purely from the order that you handed in your form so that we actually can hear what you say and have it recorded. That way we can guarantee it, rather than having a hassle with the remote microphone. I now call up to the table Mrs Renate Metzger, Mr Allan Schafer, Mrs Robyn Brew, Mr Stephen Coleman, and Mr John and Mrs Heather McMahon. We have approximately three minutes for each speaker.

Mrs McMahon —I live at Yendon, about four kilometres or so from the proposed Lal Lal wind farm. I wanted to agree completely with the lady from the Grampians landscape group. I could not have expressed any better the same experiences that we have gone through. I find it quite astonishing that we are people separated by vast distances and we are all having exactly the same experiences. The only thing I would like to add to her comments was about the family concept. Here we all are, a room full of people, and most of us have got kids. Where are they? This has been going for us for three or four years, with our kids saying, ‘Mum, when is this wind farm stuff going to finish?’ It takes up so much personal time of the people who work so hard to try to learn about all of this to start with, and then have to carry through.

We are in a situation where the Lal Lal wind farm is approved but not yet built. I would really like to know what is going to happen with those wind farms. We are not the only ones by a long shot. If it were approved tomorrow, it would have that two-kilometre setback or where the people have the option to have their say. We do not have that opportunity. After hearing the people from Waubra this morning, some residents have turbines 700 metres from their homes. One particular guy has 20 turbines surrounding him on three sides. He has a 90-degree outlook without turbines. What is going to happen to those people? Under the current laws, this wind farm can still go ahead. If the Waubra people have had that effect from assumedly not being surrounded by them, what is this poor old guy who lives by himself going to have happen to him? I would really like to find out where we stand. I believe that no more wind farms should be built until all of the questions that have been raised today have been answered.

You keep asking questions about the devaluation. I cannot provide any evidence, but our neighbour had his property valued at something like $440,000. He was about five kilometres from the wind farm. Then he went through a marriage separation and had to have the property revalued four months later, and it was $380,000. When he rung up the guy and said, ‘What are you talking about?’ he said, ‘You’ve got a wind farm proposed to be built near you.’ It was not even approved. That is just something I wanted to tell you. Thank you.

Mr McMahon —I live in the same location. It is interesting that the Lal Lal project has not been mentioned today. Of all the projects mentioned so far, we are another one. We live about seven or eight minutes from here. The project that has been approved near us has 72 turbines up to 130 metres high, so that is the 40-storey turbine. We have calculated that between us or around our distance of four point something kilometres from the project, there are around 2,000 people as close as or closer than us to these turbines. Mr Russell-Clark, who spoke before, was famous for a line, ‘Where’s the cheese?’ We think the relevant question here is: where is the planning? No one in their right mind would plan on such a project with so many people affected, with so many questions regarding the effects.

The process has been completely ad hoc to date, and it is just a process whereby a wind company happens to contact the farmer or vice versa. There is no planning in that. It is inevitable that this would result in turbine locations which are offensive to people. If there is perceived to be some public good in these things—and many people here would not agree that there is—and if people believe that there is, it is probably inevitable that some people will be offended much the same as a new freeway will offend people or a railway line or what have you. What government must be about is minimising the pain for the gain. If we want to achieve a certain amount of gain in terms of output, a certain base level output or a certain overall output, whatever it is—and base level output is a big issue with regard to wind projects—there are millions of hectares to choose from in Australia, or even Victoria. Surely with planning we can offend far fewer people for the same perceived gain, minimising the overall community pain.

We believe that we need a moratorium on turbine construction within a certain distance of turbines. Two kilometres probably is not enough. Maybe three is not enough, but at least something needs to be put in place very quickly before more of these huge turbines are built. That is just talking about houses where there is a human or health effect. Hopefully as soon as possible, there needs to be consideration also for all wildlife and geography. But we need some basis quickly before more problems occur. We then need time to properly evaluate the health and other issues.

Improved guidelines need to be established. Very importantly, the councils talked about the resources. There will need to be enormous resources to police the audible and non-audible noise levels on a day and night basis. Unless there is dramatic and quick change, the risk from the developers’ point of view is that many millions of dollars will be spent on these turbines which will be shown later on to have a great effect and which will need to be pulled down. Better planning guidelines, and quickly, will benefit developers as well as the community. Thank you.

Mr Coleman —I am from Quoin Hill Vineyard, which is right in the middle of the Waubra wind farm. I will read what I have here. I have resided at Quoin Hill for almost 28 years after moving from Melbourne to start life in the country with our young family. We have built up a small family business there. From the very beginning, we were a supporter of the Waubra wind farm and were quite excited about the proposed benefits to the Waubra and local community. When we were approached we made it quite clear that our only concern was noise. However, time and time again we were told there was no way that we would hear them. Even after the preliminary noise tests were taken we were advised that a proposed turbine some 400 metres away from our house would only be one decibel over the limit and we would still not hear it. Since they have been commissioned, this is a completely different story.

The closest turbine to our house is some 600 metres away. We have five turbines located within one kilometre of our house, 13 turbines within 1.5 kilometres of our house and 30 turbines within two kilometres of our house. The turbines 1.5 to two kilometres away on Big Hill to the north of us also have an effect on the noise, depending on which way the wind is blowing.

The types of noises that we experience depend on wind direction. The noises range from a doof-doof noise, like you would hear from a subwoofer at a party down the street, to a constant jet rumble. We can also hear the generator noise, like a fridge when it fires up—that electrical sound—and at times a whooshing noise, like a stick being swung through the air quickly. These noises are not just for a minute or two but can go on all night, not to mention the day. On average, we would say that we have interrupted sleep at least three to four nights a week and on some occasions up to five. As stated before, this has been since they have been commissioned. I have tried to escape from the continuous noise by relocating to one of the four bedrooms in the house, only to be awakened by the noise from other turbines. My wife actually goes to sleep with ear plugs in. This continuous interruption to and lack of sleep has enormous impact on our lives, our business and our future. Last week the noise could be heard over the television inside the house.

We met with Acciona in April 2010 to raise our concerns, only to be advised that the noise levels were compliant. We have been monitoring the noise levels with our own monitor, which is an industrial one that was given to me by my brother-in-law who owned a factory down in Melbourne. I have found the readings at times to be far in excess of permit conditions. In fact, they range between 42 to 50 decibels at night.

We had a meeting with somebody from the shire who also stated that our valuation on our property has decreased, and this year when we received our rate notice we could see quite drastically how it had.

CHAIR —That is the first hard evidence that we have had in terms of rate notices. You do not have to provide us all of the details but could you perhaps provide us with a copy of your rate notices, just to compare the two, to show us? You can say that it is confidential, just so we can see that. We have not seen that before. We had the shires here earlier saying that they have not decreased.

Mr Coleman —David did say that the ones inside the wind farm, which we are—we are right in the middle of it—were decreased.

CHAIR —Okay, thanks.

Mrs Brew —Thank you for the Senate inquiry. I live at Evansford, which is on the northern end of the Waubra wind farm, approximately two kilometres from three turbines and a little further from another group of turbines. I find it hard to sleep on the audible noise nights, and body vibrations, vibrating lips and heart palpitations are the things that often wake me up in the middle of the night, which is the low frequency noise.

Something I would like the committee to look at is the low frequency noise. I have complained to Acciona about noise in general and vibrations, and when I rang one time on the phone—which is something you asked, about noting down complaints—they told me over the phone that they had no-one to answer complaints. So I emailed them. In that case they had a hard copy and they had to record that. They did not start recording numbers until they were asked to by another resident. Twelve months later the first complaint number was issued, so there would be a lot of complaints that have not been registered. The body vibrations are something that I have noticed, and I believe it also affects our animals, but that is another issue.

The Australian wind industry is fairly new and policies have not been clearly defined. Overseas, the United States of America have town planners that have very strict rules. They monitor low frequency noise. They realise that low frequency noise is a problem. They ask for tests to be done; they are asked for independently and they are paid for by the wind industry. They are not expected to be paid for by our council or our government. Also, when they monitor the noise, if it is found to cause body vibrations, which they have accepted that it will in some cases, those turbines are shut down.

The low frequency noise is an issue for a lot of people in the area where I live. There are a lot of people that get vibrations. Sometimes it feels as if you have a mobile phone in your chest that is vibrating. Often it is just your heart that palpitates. The recognition of it overseas needs to be looked at so that it is recognised here, because we do not want to live like that—and not all of us can leave our homes. Thank you.

Mrs Metzger —Thank you for the opportunity to speak. I got involved in this when there was a wind proposal for Tuki, near Smeaton, and I have been researching this for four years, looking into efficiency, environmental effects and other effects on people and other issues such as fire risks from power lines related to wind turbines. The four years of research, which is in my Senate submission, has caused me to be extremely concerned that, in the driest continent on earth that has been called a solar hot spot of the earth, we are destroying the little arable land that we have with huge wind turbines that wreck the land, the wildlife—like our birds and bats, and the bats is a problem that has recently been coming out globally and is a really big concern—and our native vegetation.

The other problem is that defunct turbines are usually not dismantled, for example, as in California and Hawaii. They are left to rust and the concrete bases, no matter where, are left forever. For example, the 128, 600-tonne, concrete bases at Waubra are there forever. You cannot plant trees there. This destruction is for a power that always needs another one on standby ready to take over 100 per cent of all energy needs at any minute.

It concerns me deeply also that the wind companies do not have to prove anything they claim, yet we continue to give them planning approval. I was at the recent informal meeting with the Victorian planning department regarding another turbine—I do not know if I am allowed to mention names—but Future Energy had not even put up a wind speed testing tower. I did not realise they had not done that and I asked them what was their wind speed data. I swear my jaw dropped when they said, ‘We didn’t put up a tower.’ Yet in their report they claimed that the turbine would offset about, I think, 20,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases—I do not have my sheet here.

They made a claim with no wind speed data. What also worries me is that the wind companies can consistently deny health problems over and over again, both here and overseas, yet Acciona bought out at least seven properties at Waubra, and I wondered whether this was counted in the appraisal of land values. Is the fact that the wind company buys up these properties, at least seven properties in Waubra and more elsewhere in America, for example, counted in the land valuation?

In the newspapers, Acciona constantly denied any health problems, yet the c, recently criticised Acciona for inadequate noise testing at Waubra. They did say there was a problem. Elsewhere in Australia, noise from turbines, as was mentioned earlier, could be heard 10 kilometres away, like the low thumping from music that an inconsiderate neighbour next door will not turn off. Despite the many people who experienced health problems at Waubra and were forced to move away, the wind company wants to extend the wind farm there by a further 60 turbines.

What also worries me greatly is that flora and fauna experts recommend scenarios of ‘offsetting’—and I do not quite know what they mean—that are ridiculous and not doable. For example, and I have seen this twice, the pre-turbine construction finding of any endangered striped legless lizard under every rock, moving them to another part of the property and telling them to stay there. You read this and you think, ‘What?’ And we are meant to take this seriously. Or they talk of offsetting potentially destroyed native vegetation—and again I have seen this twice—from turbine construction, when there is only 0.01 per cent left in Australia.

CHAIR —You have gone way over three minutes, I am sorry. If you have any additional information to give us which you have not covered in your submission, you are more than welcome to give us any further information.

Mrs Metzger —Can I mention my conclusion?

CHAIR —If you are very quick.

Mrs Metzger —I am asking for a moratorium on the wind industry in Australia to allow time for objective research into its relevance to Australia as a whole, its efficiency and whether it lives up to its claims, to the health effects of turbine noise on nearby residents and their quality of life, to the overall effect it has on all jobs in Australia, not just jobs in concrete and particularly into the effect that the industry is having on wildlife. Thank you very much.

CHAIR —Thank you. Mr Schafer.

Mr Schafer —Thank you, Senators, especially Senator Fielding. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I live at Berrybank. We are sitting next to where 99 turbines potentially will be built, we are told by the proposer, as soon as possible. It has been approved. We have been to a panel process. We have been through torture. Anne and I are living a nightmare through this. I am going to be quick and you are going to have to stop me, because I am just going to keep going.

Let me read out what happens and I think we probably all understand it. The state government sets up a response from the proposer and this response—and these are the words from the referral form—’should honestly reflect the potential for adverse environmental effects. A referral will only be accepted for processing once DPCD is satisfied that it has been completed appropriately.’ Just keep that statement at the back of your mind for a little while. We bought this property in 2007. We are surrounded on 270 degrees by turbines, on the north-east, north, north-west, west, south-west, south and south-east. Around our house, not our property but our house, are 16 turbines within two kilometres of us. There are 57 within 3.5 kilometres. We are told by the company, Union Finosa, that this will not be a problem. They are conforming to the government guidelines. Remember what I said earlier about the reference. I am going to race through this, so I do apologise for it, humbly.

CHAIR —We are keeping up.

Mr Schafer —Brett Lane did the flora and fauna study. Brett Lane, in our area, did a two-day study, and we found out at the panel—I am progressing a little bit—from a car with a pair of binoculars. Our country, approximately 5,300 hectares, is predominately raised bed country. This is going to confuse a few people, but let me quickly make it simple. There is a rut approximately 40 centimetres deep; there is a bed and then another rut. This aids in growing crops. It keeps the water off the roots. In its submission, the CFA stated that they would not like to send trucks or personnel onto this country. I do not believe that Union Finosa, when approached by these two major landholders who proposed this proposal to Union Finosa—very scientific I must admit—knew that these raised beds were there.

We talk about fire problems. The council employee previously said that they live in a volcanic area and the fire trucks cannot really travel over volcanic land. The CFA stated that they cannot travel over raised bed country. You cannot use aeroplanes to control a fire like we do in the rest of the state for grasslands. You cannot control fires on this property. I am not saying that turbines start fires, although we have had three in South Australia where the EPA has told people to keep one kilometre away because there is a chance that a blade might fly off and hit you. People cannot control these fires. They cannot be controlled by aerial. My house is the frontier of this fire, whether it starts on the property or comes through the property. I hope you understand that.

CHAIR —Mr Schafer, that is a bit over three minutes.

Mr Schafer —Can I go for a little bit longer, please?

CHAIR —Thirty seconds.

Mr Schafer —Okay, 30 seconds, I will be quick. Brett Lane has run through this. There are no ground hares, no feral cats, no brush-tailed possums, no eastern kangaroos, no koalas, no lesser bats, no foxes, no echidnas and no water rats. That is the submission that was sent to Minister Madden.

The next one regards visual impact. The impact at the corner of Foxhow Road and Hamilton Highway—I am reading from this, and you can have this; it was done by Environmental Resource Management Australia—the impact one kilometre away from the turbines—which is a lie—is landscape sensitivity, low; overall visual impact, low. Let me put this into perspective. This is like standing on the steps of the Opera House and looking at the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and in that one kilometre around that area are 25 turbines. This is the information that has been given to Minister Madden and he has decided, with this information—and I cannot criticise him for that—that there is no need for an environmental effects study. He has been given false information.

CHAIR —By the company?

Mr Schafer —By the company, by the expert witnesses to this company. One expert witness goes up to Waubra because Anne and I complain about the bright lights which flash at night, and reflect off the fog if it is there. We are concerned about that. We do not want our grandkids to be affected by these strobing lights. The bloke who goes up there, an expert witness, goes up there and leaves before sunset. He leaves before sunset; can you believe that? This man is getting paid for that. I have all this documented, and I have much, much more. The Department of Sustainability and Environment Victoria says that Brett Lane should re-do the figures. There are brolga sites in there; there are people taking photos of brolgas. There are families who are witnessing brolgas being on their properties, and there is no recognition of it by Brett Lane. This is a disgrace. I am disgusted to live in Australia and to listen to this.

CHAIR —Mr Schafer, if you want to table any of that information—

Mr Schafer —You can have whatever you like.

CHAIR —That would be really useful. I do not know all of the details that you have.

Mr Schafer —I have put in a submission, and I have gone over that, but I could not explain it in a letter unless I wrote you an Encyclopaedia Britannica.

CHAIR —Those actual documents with the environmental information I think is a good example of what they do and what they say.

Mr Schafer —For these wind farm companies from Spain and all over the world to get up and say that there are no effects on health, these people must be hiding under a bloody rock.

CHAIR —Thank you.

Mr Briddy —Thank you, senators. I am a farmer from Lexton. Our people have been in Lexton since settlement and they worked hard over the years to get to where we are today. Major Mitchell came through when he first mapped out a path through Victoria, and he went to one of our hills, called the Leaseland Hill, and he wrote in his diary: ‘This is a valley of the finest description.’ Not anymore, because there are 19 wind towers proposed at Lexton.

Our homestead is 5.5 kilometres from the Waubra wind farm, or Glenbrae, as we call it. Our farm is on the north side of the divide but the towers are, of course, on the south side. We have an unusual problem: we have sound coming from the wind towers at Waubra and following the valley from the actual Great Divide down to our homestead. We have big problems there. Ever since they were built, we have had the problem of this vibration noise that people have been talking about tonight. We have had trouble sleeping and all those sorts of things. It is a fair dinkum fact. I have put in submissions and so have the people around as well as my family.

With the 19 towers that have not been erected, although the permits have been issued, I see big problems ahead. Most of them are about one kilometre and up to two kilometres away. We have a valley coming from what we call Granite Hill down towards Lexton township, and there is a beautiful little creek that follows that area, and that is the situation. I have talked to a professor and he asked if there were any creeks or streams around that area, and I said, ‘Yes, there is.’ He said, ‘The sound waves will be following the water.’ That was his explanation of how we are getting this sound from Glenbrae to the north side of the Great Divide and our farm.

You mentioned something about property values. Our neighbour’s place was sold just the other day. I know it is hearsay, and I do not have any figures in front of me, but I can guarantee you that the people who sold it certainly lost more than a third in value. The other situation about Waubra is that most of the properties that have been sold around the wind towers at Waubra have been purchased by Acciona, and they then made the people sign confidentiality clauses, so we do not know the prices of those properties.

With respect to the fire risk, these 19 towers that are going into the Lexton area are in an absolutely highly fireprone area and right next to a state forest, called the Pyrenees Ranges. I think there are about 140,000 hectares of bush, and it is right in the middle of it. If a bushfire occurs we will have an inferno on our hands. Thanks very much.

Mrs Kearns —I am submitter No. 136 with my husband, Frank. I wanted to raise half a dozen points. We live on a 16-hectare property in close proximity to the approved Moorabool wind energy facility. There is a perception in the community that all of those who speak out about the disadvantages and viability or otherwise of wind farm power as a source of renewable energy are climate change sceptics. This is wrong. We are not. We fully support development of renewable energy, but WestWind Energy plans to place 150-metre high turbines just one kilometre from our dwelling.

At the panel hearing for the Moorabool wind energy facility last May and June 2010, the chair of the panel, Mr Chris Bannon, who incidentally was also on the panel of the Waubra development, was heard to remark, ‘We don’t want another Waubra.’ We all heard it. There are 107 turbines in the combined Moorabool facility. I am a health professional, as a registered nurse, so health is my main concern. I consider it an insult to be told that the reason some people are ill with wind turbine syndrome is because they do not stand to gain financially and host landholders do. Even the panel report suggested that claims of ill health be further investigated.

My brief anecdotal evidence re health effects is as follows: on 4 January this year, my husband and I decided to visit Waubra to view the wind farm. It was a cool, rather overcast day, not too windy. We spent over one hour and then went home. At 2 o’clock the next morning, I woke with severe chest pain. I had enough sense to take my blood pressure reading. I have no history of hypertension. I am very healthy normally. My blood pressure was 211 over 103, so health professionals know that that is far too high. I should have stroked out. I called the ambulance and I was transported to hospital and admitted to ICU for 24 hours. Further tests disproved any cardiac condition, so the diagnosis was probably stress, just from the worry.

Since May 2009, when we first knew about the proposed development, our lives have been turned upside down. We have not been able to make any permanent plans for retirement. One major worry we have is that, in our family, over half of our members have a genetic heart condition called Long QT syndrome. It is a major cause of sudden death, especially in young people. Any one of our grandchildren, my husband and half of my children at some stage may need to be fitted with a defibrillator or pacemaker as the condition affects the electrical activity of the heart. Two of our grandchildren take a defibrillator to school. We are concerned about possible ill effects from electromagnetic interference. At Cape Bridgewater in Portland, Victoria, there is a sign on the doors at the base of the turbines that people with pacemakers should not enter the towers.

CHAIR —Mrs Kearns, we have reached three minutes.

Mrs Kearns —That is all right. I was only going to talk about fire risks, because we are close to the CFA, but someone else touched on that.

Mrs Dean —I actually live next door to Angela and Frank Kearns. We are affected by the Moorabool wind energy facility. My main concerns are about the horrendous treatment that you receive at the hands of the proponents and their legal counsel at the hearings. The panel hearings are portrayed as being independent, which is not the case. The actual panel members are paid for by the proponents, including all of their costs, wages and everything. That is really where people start to become ill and sick, when you talk about wind farms. It is the whole process that you go through, from the day that they drop the letter on your front doorstep.

At the panel, one of the panel members actually said to us that we would not be affected overly by the blade shadow flicker because we could go out into our backyard and still enjoy our garden. He said he would ensure that the setback would be taken from the perimeter of our house property, which is not the case. There are a couple of properties that have been assessed for the wind facility where they actually do exceed the limit of 30 hours per annum, but the wind energy company has said that it is okay because there are trees that will screen those properties. Those trees that they are relying on for screening those properties actually do not belong to those landowners; they belong to their next-door neighbours. If the next-door neighbour cuts the trees down, then those houses will be exposed above and beyond the allowable limit, and we will be subjected to shadow and blade flicker whilst we are out gardening or enjoying our backyard.

We have also been told by the senior counsel for the wind farm company with respect to our visual amenity: ‘You don’t own the view. Because you live in rural zoned properties, you are not entitled to the same considerations as someone who is zoned residential.’ That means that we are subjected to these turbines overshadowing our property 24 hours a day.

Their own reports for landscape have said that they could not mitigate our circumstances; however, they would plant trees on our property. They would do shelter ballots and things like that. We will be dead before those trees grow high enough to block anything out. That is a constant reminder. Yes, we are stressed; yes, we are anxious; and yes, we are still trying to come to terms with what our lot in life will be.

I want to refer to the inaccurate noise assessments that were conducted. The permit states that they have to re-do them all. However, if the assessments were honest, accurate and truly reflected the circumstances that people would be facing, you would not have the situation you have at Waubra. People would not be complaining of the health issues. I ask that the assessments, whether they are landscape, noise, whatever, be done by independent people instead of by the wind farm companies, who have their own agendas.

As to the fire risk, CFA fire fighters cannot go within one kilometre of a turbine fire. However, our property extends from the back of our house to the nearest turbine, a distance of one kilometre. Does that mean that our land is devalued and our asset does not mean anything, figuratively speaking by the wind farm company, because we cannot defend our property between us and the turbines? It is unsafe. The CFA has actually—

CHAIR —I am going to have to ask you to finish, sorry. I have let you go over a little bit. We will follow up the point about the CFA around the zone that you have just mentioned.

Mrs Webb —I have come as an employee of the wind industry, specifically in the community wind sector which is a not-for-profit, but I am speaking today as an individual. I work as a wind engineer.

CHAIR —For whom?

Mrs Webb —I used to work for a commercial independent consultant. Now I am in a not-for-profit sector helping communities build renewable energy infrastructure. I am also a member of Hepburn Wind, which is Australia’s first community-owned wind farm. I would like to tell quite a different story today, hopefully a good news story, and I will be very brief.

Firstly, I grew up in Perth and I studied engineering. In Perth, in engineering, there is a lot of money to be made, and it is seen as a very good future. From a young age, I knew that I wanted to work in the wind industry. Because there was nothing going on in WA at the time, many years ago I moved to Melbourne and took a job in the wind industry. Over the past 6½ years I have worked for a turbine manufacturer, as an independent technical consultant and now in the community sector.

I wanted to work in wind because I think it is a good idea and it is a new idea. I think it is a clean idea for the future. I know a lot of young people who feel the same way. I teach a series of three guest lectures at Melbourne University called Introduction to Wind Engineering, and there are an awful lot of young people who think that this is a fantastic industry.

I also want to talk about Hepburn Wind. It is owned by 1,600 community members. There are two turbines, and everybody benefits from the turbines. They have overwhelming community support. It is quite a different situation from what we have heard here. I think that is because it has a very different ownership model. It has a really different project scale, in that it is appropriately sized for the community. It has a very different approach to community consultation.

I was lucky enough to attend the turbine raising last weekend when the two turbines went up. It was a day of joy and community inclusion. There were tiny children running around; there were older people sitting to watch this crane build the wind farm, and there were people my age enjoying this feeling of community spirit. The SES held a sausage sizzle; there was music; it was absolutely fantastic. I want everyone to know that you can really go about this differently and wind energy can be a joyous and progressive thing. It is cleaner and if we accept that we need our energy to be sourced from cleaner technologies and if we accept the economics, which is that wind farms are by far the most affordable way to do this, then we need to think really carefully about ways to create more examples of people feeling excited instead of afraid and angry. Thank you.

Mr Bernard —Good afternoon. I am one of the founders of Hepburn Wind in Daylesford. I grew up in Denmark and watched the development of the wind industry from tiny, very noisy machines to what they are today. My family participated in a small-scale, community-owned wind farm on our farming property. I have lived in Australia now for 20 years and have been watching the development of renewable energy and wind energy in your country. I have been slightly puzzled, until a few years ago when some of us from Daylesford attended the first community engagement meeting by one of the wind farm companies, where the entire community turned out in total opposition. What I thought I witnessed was a community that felt they were not being asked if they wanted a wind farm, a community that felt they had no say. I was not surprised at all. I was very disturbed by the engagement process. Driving home from that meeting that evening, we discussed in the car and later, that if the wind industry is going to have any potential, any hope in this country, the communities have to be engaged. They have to be part of it. That was the reason why we started developing Hepburn Wind.

Our intention was to have a very transparent process and a very independent process. For example, our flora and fauna studies were done by the Ballarat university, et cetera. We are still developing further policies of how we can be transparent in publicly stating on a very regular basis all of our findings, whether it is noise, bird kill, bat kill, et cetera.

One of the main issues that I found we were not able to deal with, which I am still disappointed with, was how we deal with people in the community who do not want to participate in the process. The majority of the community were very much for the project, but there were a few who were not. My personal proposal to the committee is to somehow suggest an engagement process that incorporates communities and companies. I am not sure of the mix, but I think it is crucial that the communities become involved in part ownership and have much more say in the process. Thank you.

CHAIR —Thank you.

Mrs Schafer —Thanks for the opportunity to speak here. I live at Berrybank. My husband, Allan, was the quite vocal one earlier.

CHAIR —We figured that you might have been together. I do apologise; I did not look down the list earlier and see that you should have been together.

Mrs Schafer —Perhaps I should not apologise really for the emotion that comes across with a lot of us here today. I hope it is coming across to you, too, because this is what we have been living with for years. Heaven help the poor people at Waubra. I just really hope that something can be done for them. I think it is an absolute disgrace that people in Victoria have been allowed to suffer as they have been. It is shameful; it is really shameful, and I hope that you can really bring something very soon to bear to help them.

As far as we are concerned, we have a lifestyle property, which is a bit of a joke now. We have 100 acres, a pretty house that we are hoping to do up in order to live self-sufficiently. It was our retirement dream. As the lady said earlier, you get the little notice on your doorstep and then that is it; your life is upside down. You are really living a nightmare. It must sound melodramatic, but that is really what it is like. It occupies all of your waking thoughts, just about. If you have a day that you do not mention wind farms, it is a bonus. You are concerned for your family, your future; you cannot plan for anything. Even going to the nursery; I would like to put that plant in, but no, that is a waste of money. We have been told by expert witnesses that we will not be able to live in our house. As Allan said before, we will have 16 towers within two kilometres.

That is another issue that I would like to cover. You obviously want—and I can understand why—property valuation issues. It is hard to prove this, and the wind farm companies will certainly not let anything happen to make it look as though values have dropped, but common sense in itself says that if you are living on a lifestyle property next to 100 turbines surrounding you on three sides, for goodness sake, it is worth nothing. You are out there for the ambience, for the lifestyle, and you have an industrial complex next to you. Of course all of these properties are going to be devalued. It is just sheer common sense. You are living in the country, in a rural environment, you are there for the peace and quiet for your lifestyle and farming, and you have an industrial complex next to you. Of course it is going to devalue your property. I do not know what further proof is needed than just sheer common sense. That is the way it is. Thank you for the opportunity. I really hope that something can be done. A moratorium I think is essential.

Ms Robertson —I come here representing myself today, but I do work as a wind engineer. I am a mother of two young children, and another one on the way, and I am certainly proud to be associated with the renewable energy industry in Australia. I have worked throughout the world, in both the wind industry and in solar. I have a medical science background and an engineering background as well and 18 years experience.

I believe that Australia has a necessity or a need to transform its energy industry. I have lived and breathed rural Victoria, rural Tasmania and rural New South Wales all of my life, and have lived on property. I completely respect the communities in which I work, and I certainly remain true to my values in everything I do. I do not go out representing the wind farm company; I go out representing myself and my values. I think there are enormous opportunities to look at the planning sector of the wind industry, but I also think there are enormous opportunities for rural areas.

With respect to the supply of energy in Australia, nothing has zero impact. I look at the coal industry and I look at the extraction industries. I look at the health impacts in the Latrobe Valley and I go to work every day for a better future for my children. The wind industry throughout the world is seen as the cleanest form of energy generation. It is the most efficient and economic proven technology of renewable energy. It is harnessing a resource. I look forward to a future where renewable energy can be within our landscape. I look forward to a level playing field for all industries involved in energy and I look forward to consistent guidelines throughout Australia, and that would be extremely useful to us as well. Thank you.

Dr Mackay —I represent my farming, tourism and lifestyle business. I must say my neighbour on my right works for the company who is the proponent. I heard the Shire of Glenelg talk about the economic benefits, and no doubt they are for her shire. It reminded me of the tobacco industry, and I am sure they could also promote economic benefits from their employment of people. Would we want to promote the benefits of the tobacco outputs as did the Glenelg shire in terms of the impacts that wind energy is having, particularly the health impacts?

My business of farming, tourism and lifestyle, including aviation is directly affected, as I have mentioned. I have an airfield directly in line with two of the turbines. WestWind Energy was told about this in the beginning and they totally ignored it. I asked at the panel hearing that the two turbines be removed because they were directly in the flight path. If you did a direct approach, you would go through both turbines. They refused. The panel basically ignored it and said they could not consider it even though the state government planning requirements provide that they must be consulted for any aviation activity within 30 kilometres of the wind farm. They just ignored it.

It was interesting that a senior Civil Aviation Safety Authority official told me about two years ago that he had just been to a conference in Canada where they have one to two aircraft crashes into turbines every year. My proposed business development that they were told about has now been put on hold because of the two turbines. No one will want to be part of that development, living so close to them. An estate agent told me that I had probably lost about half a million dollars on my property—

Senator BOYCE —What percentage would that be?

Dr Mackay —About a third. Recently a prospective buyer offered me a price that I would have taken for my property. He then withdrew the offer entirely when he learned of the proposed wind farm. That was only a couple of months ago. I also have actual evidence of before and after valuations from a neighbour who has had his property valued by a sworn valuer and then he placed it on the market to be offered close to 50 per cent less.

It is interesting that one person who presented earlier talked about compensation. I do not think that has actually been mentioned very much. Compensation could perhaps be in the form of a rebate of stamp duty or loss of value. This could also be included in the cost of providing the electricity to the grid. In other words, it is done through the normal market price of electricity from renewable energy. This market is not taking into account the cost and impact on other people. That needs to be taken into account. It can easily be done through the market mechanism.

Finally, I believe that the panel hearings are flawed, as someone else mentioned. It is all about compliance. They do not take into account the loss of amenity and economic loss and appropriate compensation. If everyone is so much in favour of the turbines next to them, why not have them in Canberra? Why not have them in Melbourne and Brisbane and Sydney? Let us put them on the bays, because they fulfil the criteria, that is, they are close to population centres and they are close to wind. Let everyone share these benefits; not just the rural communities. Thank you.

Mr Seligman —I am a retired biomedical engineer. I worked for four years in the department of Otolaryngology at the University of Melbourne on the bionic ear project, and then I subsequently worked for 26 years for Cochlear, the company that developed and manufactures the bionic ear. My comments relate to the potential health effects of sound which one cannot hear. They are not to do with the distance over which wind turbines can be heard nor to any noise that might be caused. I am talking about sounds that people cannot hear and whether this can affect health, or whether it is likely that it could affect health. I want to allay the fears of those who think that sound which they cannot hear can affect their health.

One of the first things that you notice about infrasound, or very low frequency sound, is that there is an awful lot of it around, to the point that if you have a sound level meter and you set that sound level meter to a flat setting, that is, not to mimic human hearing but to measure sound pressure alone, you would find that there is an awful lot of infrasound around from natural causes and from manmade sources. For example, waves and wind produce a lot of infrasound as do trucks, trains, aeroplanes and so on. The human auditory system has evolved to reject infrasound because if you actually could hear all of that low frequency sound, you would not even be able to communicate with anybody, it would be so overwhelmingly loud.

It has been argued that people are affected by infrasound because it is picked up by the body and not by the ears. In actual fact, the mechanics of the situation is that airborne sound is picked up very inefficiently by the body. When people worry that low frequency sound is actually vibrating their body and making them sick, there are very little grounds for that on the basis that we are flooded all the time with infrasound from our own bodies. For example, when you walk, you generate infrasound in your own body that is about 10 times as loud as anything you can pick up from the outside.

I was directly affected by this interesting phenomenon through a totally implantable microphone which we were developing for the bionic ear. We had a lot of trouble with this microphone because of the noise which was being picked up from the body, specifically at two hertz, which is the frequency that is often talked about in connection with wind farms. Wind farms are said to produce low frequency sound at around two hertz or up to four hertz. This is exactly the same frequency that your body is subjected to when you walk. That sound in your body is very much louder than any sound that you could possibly pick up from the air. Thank you.

Mr Keating —I am a farmer from Berrybank. I am on the south side of the Berrybank proposed wind farm of 5,400 hectares. We went through a panel hearing in Camperdown in February 2010. During that hearing a lot of different things were brought up. It is mainly very prime cropping land, very subject to fires. My family has been burnt out twice. I have experienced it once when we were totally burnt out. If they put wind farms on the north side of me, on totally 5,400 hectares—swish, she’ll be gone in a flash; it’d be down to the lake.

At the panel hearing the CFA stood up and said there could be no aerial fighting in wind farms, so that does away with the main firefighting straight away. You cannot do anything about it. I am a former fire captain down there. It is virtually all on raised beds. For all of the time I was captain, at every group meeting we went to we were told: ‘If you take a crew to a fire and there are raised beds, get out of it. Don’t send them in.’ Now they are asking us to just stand back and let 5,400 hectares go swish. It will be murder, I can assure you.

There will be no spraying—I will not be allowed to do any spraying on my farm because the planes cannot turn because the wind farm will have towers within 900 to 1,000 metres from where we live. I was never approached by Union Finosa about it. All I found out was in the local paper.

With regard to land values, approximately 1,200 hectares of this wind farm area, which is all raised beds, was put up for lease, and they got rid of about 20 per cent of it. They still have another 80 per cent. Nobody wanted it. That says so much for wind farms.

That is about all I have to say. Use your common sense. I do have a son who is an ag scientist. If a wind farm goes there, I would not ask him to come home with this crap hanging over the fence.

CHAIR —Thank you. Mr Seligman, do you have documentation that you could send us on what you have just been saying?

Mr Seligman —Yes, I could put something together. No document has been written specifically on this issue, apart from my submission.

CHAIR —If you would like to put in a submission, that would be useful.

Mr Seligman —A submission has been put along these lines.

CHAIR —Okay, thank you. Thank you very much for your comments; they are much appreciated.

Mr McLaughlin —My wife and I farm land in Nulla Vale, which is part of the Tooborac district. I come from the same area as Mr Russell-Clarke. I want to confine my comments to the land valuation question. I am pleased to see that you are searching desperately for evidence. I will comment on that in a moment.

The proposition as I see it for a landholder who will not have turbines but will be affected by them, which is coming down from the renewable energy target scheme down through the state planning systems, is that there is a public good being effected here—that is, the reduction of emissions. People argue about that, but let us assume that this is true. As a consequence, some people will be asked to bear economic damage through the devaluation of their land, not to mention health effects and various other effects. If that is the case, and if you find that the weight of evidence as it exists today does suggest that there is damage to land values, short of putting wind farms in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and so forth as has been suggested, which is not a bad idea, it seems to me that the Commonwealth policy response lies in what I think was the Prime Minister’s promise before the election last August that there would be $1 billion available for the building of new reticulation for electricity. I think the hit was that a lot of that would be to deliver electricity from wind farms into the grid. If that is true and if the promise is still on the table, that seems to me to be something that the committee could look at.

What is the scale of the problem? I think it is very large, relative to other industries. You can build a 1,600 megawatt coal fired or gas fired power station on 1,000 hectares. For the Tooborac farm, which is now off the agenda, the output was going to be about 30 megawatts. It was going to cover an area, in dots on the top of the Great Dividing Range amongst granite boulders, that was 20 kilometres long and 10 kilometres wide, which is about 20,000 hectares. So you have 500 hectares versus 20,000 hectares for something like 12 per cent of the output of a conventional power station. There would have been hundreds of properties affected—dozens affected because they were next door to these things and then hundreds more whose land value would have been affected.

What is the evidence on land values? As you know, there are no convincing studies one way or the other. There is a stand-off:  there are studies that say that land is affected and there are studies that say they are not. So this committee has to place weight on other evidence, it seems to me. You have to trust common sense, as someone said a moment ago. I was involved in the commissioning of the Access Economics study that Mr Russell-Clarke referred to. They showed quite clearly that there will be a direct correlation between the impact on land values and the degree to which the land value has amenity value in it. So where there are a lot of people living there will be impacts. The Elders gentleman whose evidence was referred to previously, which is also included in my submission, has come to the same conclusion as Access Economics, which is that if you come at it from an economic point of view, fewer buyers will force the price down, or if you come at it from his experience—and I will give you some examples—the fall in land values will be between 30 and 50 per cent where there is a high amenity value.

Most of the people sitting here live in areas where there was amenity value built into the land value, over and above the rural value of it. So if the wind industry wants to build towers where people live they are guaranteeing that they will have a bad effect on land values. In my area, there is a lump of land next to me that I will not buy because it is too expensive. There were three properties put to auction before the election in Victoria last year. All failed to attract a bid, even though they were good properties. Lastly, one of the landholders who put his hand up for turbines, who decided they were going to happen, sold his existing house and some of the land associated with that to move away from where the turbines were going to go. He offered it for $700,000-odd, but in the end he had to take $400,000. Thank you for the opportunity to speak.

Mr W Elsworth —I am from Daylesford-Clunes Road, Smeaton. I have dotted down a few points. First, does the Senate committee take seriously the issues that have been raised? Why is the onus on the public and not the government? How will the committee protect innocent families? Through my experience with this issue, wind companies prey on landholders suffering financial hardship, and they also prey on communities that do not have the time or money to fight proposals. People have to work and pay their bills, send their kids to so forth.

Local government in general does not care. It needs the revenue from the wind farms. There is a prime example in central Victoria with the situation with our local governments and their balance sheets. Is it fair and the Australian way to sacrifice a few at the expense others? Expert data is paid for by the wind companies for their own needs and for their own means. Why is there not some form of independent authority to provide the data or oversee the data? There need to be bonds from wind companies to safeguard projects falling over. If Acciona, which is a shelf company, falls over, who will clean up the mess? There have been examples of this overseas.

There also need to be property guarantees. In America it is starting to happen where local authorities are making wind companies provide a property guarantee for people who neighbour wind farms to protect those people.

After going through the submissions, it is disappointing that submissions for wind turbines are from people or companies that seek financial benefit. As you would be aware when you go through the submissions, with respect to the people who are pro-wind, there is usually a monetary gain. Those people also do not live near where the wind turbines are proposed.

Finally, I am sure everyone in this room is concerned about the environment and global warming, if it is or is not the case, but if political parties were serious about global warming or doing something about the environment, would it not be far easier to mandate solar panels on all homes, say, between 30 and 50 per cent, which would have a far greater benefit for all, and we would not have the issues that wind energy appears to have and does have overseas. That is all I would like to say.

Mr Thomas —I would like to thank the senators for this inquiry. There has been so much said, and I do not know really where to start. I am from Waubra and north of Waubra. I was for the turbines. If someone had come to me a few years ago and said, ‘We would like to build some turbines on the hill,’ I had no worries, go for it. That was our attitude with Waubra. We did not do any research. A lot of people here now have the information, but we did not feel it was necessary to research. We believed that these things were good.

Once they started going and people started having problems, we put up our hand and said, ‘What is going on?’ From that point on, we were climate sceptics, we were anti-windmill, we were all sorts of things. That is all part of the cruel, sadistic way wind farm companies work. I think if they had the power to do so, they would just shoot all of the locals and then put up their turbines. It is a cruel, sadistic way in which they operate.

They know that we all have a problem at Waubra. There are many of us. They could do the tests, or other people could do the tests. It is just so easy. Seven turbines did not go for almost a fortnight a couple of weeks back. Some of us had problems with that because we were all in quite a big area and just about everybody is on blood pressure medication, including me, and our blood pressure fell dangerously low. You should not be on the medication, because you do not have a problem outside of the wind farm.

People will say that we were jealous, that it is about money, it is about things. I went to school with most of the people who have turbines. I know them; they are friends. I also know that they have problems but they cannot talk about it. There is no jealousy. We live in a valley. We knew that we were not getting any turbines, so it was never an issue. It was only when people started to experience symptoms of ill health. Again, you start by thinking that it is only you who has something wrong, but then you find out that everyone else is having problems. My father is 80 and my mother is in her mid-seventies, and they are going through hell. We live in a valley, and if you look up, there are turbines there and there are turbines there. You do not look across at the turbines. There is a whole row of turbines. We have another 60 proposed behind us, again, in a fire danger area, close to the Caralulup State Forest and Mount Beckworth, right bang in the middle. If you ring up Field Air for an aeroplane to spray a crop, they ask: ‘Where are you from? Waubra—oh, forget it, mate.’

In 2006 we had a fire come through. We had helicopters and aeroplanes; they are the greatest things around hills we have ever seen. What would happen now? The turbines do not have to start a fire to have a fire problem with turbines; they just have to be there.

I really hope something will come of this because basically every wind farm that has been approved, rubber-stamped by Mr Madden, should be torn up because it is faulty by design. Waubra is so faulty. The position that they have put these turbines is so inappropriate. I know it is up and running, but basically every wind farm in Australia should be halted immediately.

We have to find out why these problems exist. A lot of people here will go away, miles and miles away but I have to go home and live under the bloody things. Many of my neighbours leave home. They live in the country, a beautiful quiet place. I could not image anywhere else in the world where you would want to be. Why would you have to come to Ballarat to get a guaranteed night’s sleep? Two of my neighbours have been known to get in their car and drive miles away so they can get a good night’s sleep because they have to work. A lady just up the road had a heart attack. She is only a year or two older than me. All of us have no history of heart problems. In fact, some of us have a history of having low blood pressure. Why do we now have high blood pressure? This is where the industry itself can easily do the studies. We found it when they turned seven of them off. We have it all written down. Thanks to Sarah Laurie and the Waubra Foundation, we are now keeping records daily of our blood pressure. Why? We live out in the country; we are all healthy. I have absolutely nothing wrong with me but I have to take blood pressure pills because I live at a wind farm. It is just not right. I could go on forever.

CHAIR —How long ago were the turbines turned off?

Mr Thomas —It was about three weeks ago.

CHAIR —Would you be able to send in that additional information when you are happy with it? You can take out the names and things; we do not need to know names, just the information.

Mr Thomas —I would not have other people’s records, but Sarah Laurie could probably do that for you.

CHAIR —We will be hearing from her tomorrow, so we will follow that up tomorrow. Thank you.

Ms Jones —I am from Brunswick. I have come out here today to make a brief statement. I made a submission, and basically my point of view is that climate change is something that really concerns me. I really feel that stalling or I guess not taking action that I feel needs to happen for me and the next generations is not good, that wind energy is the way forward. It is one of the methods of generating clean energy. In my submission, I made a point of mentioning a visit to Codrington wind farm with my mum, and we actually stood underneath a wind turbine and had no health effects. In terms of the sounds, I did not notice anything that was uncomfortable at all. When we compare these health effects with coal fired power stations, I know that in terms of the health effects and the pollution that comes out of these things, wind turbines are definitely much cleaner than coal  fired power stations. Thank you.

Mr Shield —I grew up outside of Bendigo and I have lived and worked in Bendigo and Melbourne. I am now studying in Melbourne. I am part of a community group in Melbourne called Climate Action Moreland. Moreland is a local government area in the north of Melbourne. The group was formed in 2008 by a group of local residents who were concerned about the issues of climate change and the lack of government action to deal with that.

I wanted to say something about the importance of wind energy in a carbon constrained world. The role of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in climate change is well established. In order to prevent large shifts in our world climate system, we need international efforts to reduce our emissions, and eventually to start drawing down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere until we reach safe levels at below 300 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. A recent study has been released by the University of Melbourne and a group called Beyond Zero Emissions who have demonstrated that all of Australia’s electricity can be generated from renewable energy. Those academics found that wind energy could play a larger role in that, up to 40 per cent of the electricity generated. I think there is obviously a necessary role from wind.

One of the issues around electricity is that wherever it is produced, there are some impacts. The EPA is currently considering a proposal for a new coal fired power station in the Latrobe Valley. The company HRL is proposing to build that, and I went down to the consultation that was held by the EPA in Morwell for that. The thing that amazed me was that there was only one person there who stood up and spoke in favour of the power station. He was standing as the candidate for the Climate Sceptics Party in the election that was coming up. Other than that, all of the locals there opposed it. They are aware of the health impacts on them of the power stations that they have already, and they do not want to increase the load of particulates and other poisons in the atmosphere in their area. Eighty-five per cent of Victoria’s electricity is currently from brown coal. All brown coal fired power stations are in regional and rural communities. As well as the carbon emissions, they release a range of poisonous chemicals such as arsenic, mercury, fluorine, cadmium, lead, selenium and zinc, and all of these have health impacts on the local community.

CHAIR —Mr Shield, your time is up. I know it goes very quickly.

Mr Shield —Okay.

CHAIR —If you wanted to give us anything else from your statement, there is no problem tabling the document.

Mr Shield —Sure, thanks for that.

Mr J Elsworth —Thank you for having me, senators, and Senator Fielding, thank you for initiating this. I live at Smeaton, and my remarks will be rather brief. We have actually stopped a wind tower proposal at our town. It is quite interesting how we did it; that is another story in itself. These big organisations really do not want to fight local communities. They want to work behind their back, manipulate councils and politicians, and go ahead. But, when the community decides that it does not want this to happen, they are not really up for a good belly fight. We were prepared to fight to the end, and they were not up to it. Grant King of Origin Energy was a lightweight when it came to a good fight.

My remarks are about how it has destroyed our community and it has wrecked our school. The school used to have 30 pupils. It is down now to 17. I think it will soon close. People we have dealt with and have been friends with all of our lives no longer have any business dealings with us. We are polite to them, but that is about it. The community’s fire brigade has been decimated. The whole community has been divided by some thinking they were going to get turbines and it was going to be unopposed, and others who were not aware of what was happening until the last moment. The council thought it was going to get revenue, but what it was really going to do was drop land values and put extra burden on the other ratepayers because they would be subsidising by lower rates coming from those surrounded by turbines and their land dropping in value. The other members of the shire would have to pay higher rates to get the same revenue. So it was a no-win for the shire. Our shire was so stupid—I am a former councillor there—to not be able to understand those basic principles of business.

My question to you is: are you senators braver than Senator Christine Milne? We have her on record saying she would not like a wind turbine by her home. Senator Milne might say things in Canberra, but she was generous enough to admit on Ballarat radio that she would not like a wind turbine by her own home. If she does not want one by her own home, why should people like Donald Thomas and all those people have to have one by their home? We are all Australians. We all supposedly want a fair go and want to treat everyone else with due respect, which my family and, I believe, most people try to do all their lives. To have this imposed by foreigners and snake oil salesmen really undermines our community. It has caused a lot of harm to our district. It has caused a lot of harm to Ballarat. It is just not right. If this is allowed to go on, it will not be the Australia that I believe we all want.

They want to put turbines here, but no-one mentions the network of wires that will cover Victoria to feed this into the grid with irregular power. I went to a meeting at Beaufort. Beaufort is a town on the Western Highway, a moderate sized town. It is a nice little town. I suggested: ‘If this wind power is so good, why do you not put Beaufort on wind power so they would have wind power all the time, so the people in that nice little country town can get used to having cold water and hot beer, because their power would be irregular. They would have no regular power.’ This is what is going on. It is just all rubbish, and it is really hurting our community.

I look to you senators to go away and think: would you like a turbine beside your home? Would you like a friend of yours to be placed in that invidious position? It is really serious. Mr Madden and his cohorts did not have the ability or the guts to come up and face up publicly. They work behind the scenes, and they are really just dogs. Thank you for listening to me. Dogs.

CHAIR —If people can resist calling people names, that would be appreciated.

Mr Evans —Good evening, senators. I am from Smeaton, just north of Ballarat. I do not want to rattle on about the health effects. I think a lot of that has been said. My complaints are to do with the government, the developers, the spin and the lies and the BS that is put forward by the wind industry on a constant basis, which is basically trickery to the public. I think the public as a whole is sick of the green mantra being pushed, not so much the green mantra but the green rubbish being pushed by these companies who are using it to make money for something that basically does not work.

To start with, the developers that came out to Smeaton were obviously being funded by the state government behind the scenes, as we have information. None of them was qualified to do this job. Basically, we are putting in people who are supposed developers to power our nation. We had a nursing home operator and a lawyer, and they were going to run a wind farm. What sort of a joke is this? They had no clue about anything. They had no idea about planning. My brother, who is a town planner in Melbourne at the moment, said to them when they held a public meeting, ‘There is a significant landscape overlay here.’ They did not even know what it was. You cannot build a wind turbine there.

Three years went by, and this company, obviously just to annoy the locals, kept the project in the background, so to speak, and then they went bust. Origin Energy took them over and within about a month, that was it, bang, it was all finished. It was just a farce, a total farce, from the word go, the way it was planned. The planning was an absolute and utter disgrace, and a total indictment on the state government for allowing it to go ahead. The local members should be ashamed at letting this go ahead like it did; not just in our area but for other people. There is just no planning. The planning system was utter rubbish, to put it nicely.

We heard from a lady earlier from the council down at Portland. I can see their point of view down there, but I think it is a very selfish one. They are getting money basically funded by subsidies paid for by everybody in this room for higher prices for electricity coming out of the MRET scheme. The MRET scheme might have good intentions, but it is forcing up the price of electricity. Where is the money going? It is going basically to wind companies such as Acciona or Pacific Hydro. A lot of it is going offshore. It is pushing up the cost. What will happen to Australian businesses? We can already see the amount of business going out in manufacturing into China and into Asian countries and India. You just cannot afford to manufacture here anymore. It is making it very difficult. That is one of the major things: the cost of electricity is rising. We have to be able to control this. We have to be able to compete, otherwise it will be tough.

I believe that we have people mostly from city regions that are basically fan clubs for green energy. Fair enough, they are allowed to have their opinion, but they are getting paid money by wind energy companies, sponsorships, and they are coming out in support of them in the local media or whatever. None of them are from the areas affected. We just heard from people from Melbourne. They are allowed their opinion, that is fine, but they are coming here and trying to impose their views on our way of life in the country. We do not want this rubbish put up next to our homes. None of us does. They are telling us: ‘Hey, you should have this here. This is good for the environment.’ But it is not. It is a farce, it is a fraud and it is a scam. We went something that works. We want baseload power. We want electricity on demand. We do not want power devised by luck, and the luck is the wind. If the wind is not blowing, the power is not flowing. It is as simple as that. Thank you.

Mrs Bruty —I am here from Chepstowe. My main concern is: will the panel make recommendations to the minister, Matthew Guy, that the shires must put into place all of the ESOs, the environmental significant overlays, to protect native vegetation and brolgas? I know for a fact that Ballarat university were paid by a wind company, and their study was flawed, along with DSE. I am very concerned that DSE is not acting on behalf of the community as they should be. I have evidence to prove this. Thank you.

CHAIR —Have you provided that evidence to the committee?

Mrs Bruty —Some of it. We are getting more evidence that DSE is putting money into wind turbines and taking bird overlays off it to actually build the towers.

CHAIR —If you can provide more information that would be appreciated. I just want to make clear that we do not make recommendations to state ministers. We table a report in the Senate with a whole series of recommendations to which the federal government responds. Obviously the states look at the reports, but we have to be careful about making recommendations to the states per se. Our report is to the Senate, but we do make recommendations. I want to be clear that it is to the Senate, and the federal government responds. There is no onus on the state governments to respond, although often they do respond.

Mrs Bruty —Or the shires.

CHAIR —Exactly.

Mrs Bruty —Thank you.

Mrs Kehoe —I am from right beside the Stockyard Hill wind turbine project that has been proposed and approved. I am a PhD student in holistic education and have taught for about 10 years. One point I really want to stress, and I think I speak on behalf of a number of people, or most people here, is that we are definitely not against renewable energy or sustainability; it is the way it is approached, the guidelines that are put in place, and the right sort of energy that we choose to put up. My husband and I have two little children and another one on the way at the moment, and we will have 27 turbines right beside our home. My one-year-old already has heart problems that we are getting investigated at the moment. I suffer from migraines, travel sickness and have had a number of inner ear operations. I do know that we have had a science professional say that perhaps the infrasound will not affect everyone, but we all know we are entirely different individuals, and the way our bodies respond to different aspects in our environment does affect us no matter where we live, whether it is near turbines or in other areas. I think that cannot be dismissed just because of evidence that may not have been proved. To dismiss people’s individual evidence and individual circumstances is appalling. We really need to address those.

On property devaluation, we have an 80-acre property, so therefore it is lifestyle. We could not afford just to work off that and live somewhere else. We had it valued originally at $380,000 to $400,000, and the last offer we received was $230,000. That is a loss of $150,000, and for people that have just reached the age of 30, that is a massive, massive loss and a big drawback for us and our young family.

When I approached Origin Energy and asked them a number of questions, as we have already heard, there were not answers for a lot of the questions, whether they were to do with the technology or health effects, community effects and a number of other areas. Again, as has been mentioned today, these really need to be addressed. Thank you.

CHAIR —If you have those valuations in writing, could you provide them to us, because it is very useful for us to have that sort of information.

Mrs Kehoe —Absolutely. Thank you very much, I will.

Mr Kermond —I am from the south-west corner of Victoria, near Portland, living out at Cape Bridgewater. My wife and I have spent 22 years living there. We renovated our home and now we have a wind farm within 1.5 kilometres of our home.

Numerous things have been said today which I believe is the same story over and over again. There are many symptoms. One thing that does differ, maybe to some, is that my medical outcome is irreversible. This evidence is given by a well-known doctor. I am battling on, trying to live with that outcome. My eldest son, at 17, was doing HSC last year, and he had to come to us and disclose that he was unable to study due to these factors in our area. It is very hard to converse on such an issue, especially with a 17-year-old. He was able to get through his mid-year exams, but unfortunately he did not continue so he missed out on his VCE, which was very important to him. Two years previous to that, he was dux in his class for two years running.

We have been away from our home for approximately 8½ months. I have had to approach my father, who is in his nineties, to land on his doorstep with my wife and two children and try to explain to him that we have many issues in relation to the wind farm which he cannot understand, given his age. Luckily he accepted us into his home, and that is where we are now.

I would like to outline a few points in conjunction with airborne noise. We have seismic trouble. We live in an old stone home. The wind farm is built on a plateau of rock therefore the sounds are transmitted seismically. That is something that is a little bit different from what the other people have said. Another strong issue is that we have catchment off our farmhouse roof. With the commencement of operation of the wind farm, there have been two meltdowns with power, and three gearboxes that have been replaced due to self-destruction. Two of those gearboxes have been repaired. One was totally irreparable. Due to that self-destructing gearbox, oil from the gearbox was delivered into the atmosphere and without our knowing, it had actually attached itself to the moisture. Living on the coast as we do, it has gone into our freshwater supply, therefore we cannot use our drinking water.

In the early stages of living with this noise impact, we did not know what was going on with respect to the character of our family pet dog, who was only four years of age. After taking him to veterinary clinic after veterinary clinic, we resorted to taking him to the RMIT at Werribee in Melbourne where a veterinary doctor who has been practising for 30 years had never seen a dog with so many symptoms. His conclusion was that he was not happy in his environment and yet, he was never chained up, et cetera. He was a very well-loved dog. Eventually he died throughout that course.

There have been many levels of frustration. We have approached the council, the shire, with no response. The actual company is totally ignorant of our complaints. Therefore, it was important for me to speak today just to outline a couple of other issues that we have been living and breathing. Some of the people that might think that low frequency is a myth with wind farms, I invite anyone who has that understanding to come and stay for six months in my house, free of charge, whatever, to witness what we have witnessed in the past two years. Thank you.

CHAIR —If you felt you could, would you provide us with some more written information about your condition, if you feel comfortable with that?

Mr Kermond —To whom should I address this information? I have had several encounters with government authorities, with no response.

CHAIR —Send it to the Chair of the Community Affairs References Committee. Sophie is just giving you the contact details.

Mr Kermond —Right, thank you.

CHAIR —Thank you very much, everybody. I am sure you all know that we are having a public hearing in Melbourne tomorrow, so we will reconvene there tomorrow.

Committee adjourned at 6.46 pm