Media release 27 June 2011 FRIENDS OF THE EARTH
Planning Minister claims at odds with Senate Committee
The recent ‘Fielding’ Inquiry into the wind industry was expected by some to deliver a strong censure of the wind energy, however the final report was widely received as being measured and reasonable in its recommendations. The committee resisted the calls for a moratorium on development or to impose arbitrary setback distances between houses and turbines, both of which were demanded by anti-wind activists.
Echoing the outcomes of Victorian and NSW Parliamentary Inquiries, a review by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), and numerous state planning panels, the Senate Inquiry has found no proof of a direct link between wind farms and health problems. However, acknowledging that there is great concern in some regional communities, it has called for research to be undertaken under the watchful eye of all stakeholders in an attempt to settle this question once and for all.
The committee looked specifically at the issue of setbacks, and warned that prescribed, distance based setbacks were problematic because “in terms of noise and shadow flicker, the distance may either be too great or too little”.
The committee’s comments about the limitations of arbitrary setbacks are clearly directed at Victoria, where the Baillieu government has proposed Australia’s first distance-based system.
Victoria has had an objective and scientific system of setbacks from turbines for many years. Long existing planning guidelines limit the allowable noise and shadow-flicker at wind farms, and are among the strictest standards in the world.
Disturbingly, the Victoria planning minister, Matthew Guy, stated on the ABC’s 7.30 VIC report on Friday night that the Senate Inquiry supports his government’s plan to implement an arbitrary 2 km set back from all turbines. Minister Guy said “what the report says very clearly is that setbacks of 2 km, setbacks full stop, should be considered by those who are the relevant authorities”.
My Guy has misquoted the committee, which clearly stated that “prescribed setbacks are arbitrary and may be too great or too small” and stated that further consideration needed to be given to the development of setback policies. The committee stated “if the setback is too great then this could limit the industry and possibly affect the amount of renewable power generation in Australia.”
“On Friday night we witnessed Minister Guy falsely claim that the Federal Parliament agrees with his position, when in fact they pointed out its shortcomings”, said Friends of the Earth campaigns co-ordinator Cam Walker.
Mr Walker noted that the report endorsed a science-based approach for determining the appropriate distance between a residence and a turbine. “The 2km clause is clearly not based on mainstream science. Which begs the question: other than extremist anti-wind groups, where did Minister Guy get 2 km from as a magic distance as a seperation between houses and turbines?”
Friends of the Earth urges the minister to dump the politics of the 2 km setback, which could send billions of dollars of investment to other states, and instead to build a balanced, science-based planning framework for the further development of the wind industry in the state.