Dispatch from a town hall meeting… Baringhup, Victoria

Hepburn Wind ProjectTown hall meetings are a longstanding feature of democratic engagement in Australia. Those following the development of wind energy will be well aware of the evolution (or should that be de-evolution) of the community meeting.

At first, town hall meetings were used as a way for the nascent wind energy sector to engage the community, explain how the technology works, and the outline benefits wind farming can have for our economy and environment. In recent times, however,  town hall meetings have been stacked by anti-wind farm activists and have become a hotbed for what might be called ‘anti-enlightenment’ extremism.

The latest example of a well-meaning town hall meeting ending in was held in Baringhup, Victoria. The Mount Alexander Community Wind have identified the central Victorian town as a potential location for a community-initiated and owned wind farm. The proposal would see two to four windmills erected to offset the carbon emissions generated by electricity consumption in Castlemaine and surrounding towns. The project is anticipated to power at least 3000 homes and reduce the town’s carbon footprint by 50 percent.

The benefits of the project sound great, don’t they? But not everyone is convinced. Unfortunately, some in the community have been duped by psuedo-scientific nonsense claiming wind farms cause a range of health problems (‘wind turbines cause canscer’ can be seen spray-painted in the Baringhup area).

A local newspaper published an eyewitness account of the meeting. The author, Graham Pitts of Maldon, has kindly allowed Yes 2 Renewables to republish it:

[On Tuesday March 19], I was lucky enough to attend a public meeting about a proposed small wind farm in Baringhup. I urge all readers to go to any future such gatherings because for sheer entertainment value they surely can’t be surpassed. The important thing is to make sure there will be representatives from the two anti-wind farm groups present last night. Some of these were on the panel of speakers and the rest of them were stacked together down the front with carefully written questions to ask their leaders.

Usually courtesy demands that when attempts are made to stack a meeting there be some pretence of spontaneity and genuine-ness. Thank goodness this didn’t happen last night. The followers spent the night studying their written-down questions with furrowed brows whilst at same time incessantly waving their arms in the air for attention and swearing amongst themselves whenever someone gave a fact that could be checked or verified. Apparently, amongst such people, this is forbidden as like wind farms themselves (and, I suspect, fluoride in drinking water, metric measurements and daylight saving) offering any verifiable scientific data will bring about the end of Western Civilisation.

It really was superb entertainment. And free, too. I’m a resident of merry Maldon where people have senses of humour and was told that I should go to Baringhup because people there can be funnier.  Little did I guess that the Baringhup Hall would be blessed with such a hysterical pack of anti-wind farm visitors intent on spreading fear, gaining attention and pleasing their leaders. These, for their part, kept telling us that wind farm noise that was below hearing level would destroy the health of people a hundred kilometres away, that wind farms would not be a source of alternative energy and would add to global warming! The evidence for this was because someone had spoken on the telephone to an unnamed “top electrical person” in the USA and someone else had spoken allegedly at first hand to an “engineer in a coal-fired power station” whom sadly they couldn’t name because it was “commercial in confidence, or something or that.”  Well, you might say, it’s hard to argue with well-reasoned, science-based and verifiable evidence like that isn’t it?  Goodness gracious, why don’t they move on to proving that the earth is flat?

Personally, until last night I knew relatively little about wind farms though I have at times, in Europe, thought them graceful. But beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, one must admit. Some people do not find them beautiful and apparently would prefer the visual allure of vistas of dead trees and ruined farm lands that global warming will cause unless we create alternative sources of energy.

Yet I do wish to be better informed. The essential problem last night was that the people from MACWind gave rational explanations of the project and calmly offered many case studies and reviews of evidence that could be checked and verified.  On the other hand the anti-wind farm proponents offered much sound, fury and fear but not one fact or source that could be checked out by anyone with an objective curiosity.  Please, is there anyone out there who can present a rational, sane and genuinely scientific case against wind-farms?  I really am interested.  Being entertained by ranters and ravers is one thing but genuine knowledge is another.

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19 thoughts on “Dispatch from a town hall meeting… Baringhup, Victoria

  1. I was llso there Graham. My question was spontaneous – could they guarantee safety from infrasound? Holmes a Court could not. I only had one minute, and I wasnt lalowed to offer any aleternative information, only a question. It was the most controlled meeting I’ve ever been to. No wonder we were swearing. Now all they need is a tooth fairy with the $24 million needed. MASG/Macwind cant even balance the books of their little community group. Of course, big business, via Ho,mes a Court is the root of this evil. Hurray for the protestors!!!

  2. Mr Pitts must have attended a different meeting to the one I did. The meeting I attended was where wind advocates dodged legitimate questions at every opportunity and tried to belittle objectors.

    Mr Holmes a Court was particularly obnoxious, treating objectors and other panel members with contempt and disdain.

    The entire meeting was contrived, with rules being made up on the run to ensure objectors did not have an opportunity to question a response by a wind advocate.

    Thanks to MACWind and Holmes a Court, the meeting was just like the wind industry, a load of hot air.

    1. How does “bullshit” sound? The hot air came from the red-faced twits in the front row, accusing pro-wind advocates of falsifying evidence and covering up non-existent health scare issues. I’ve been to a few of these events, media-managed by compliant good-old-boy networks, and the rent-a-crowd anti-winders are a rotating cast of familiar faces, by and large, with a few locals gingered up by the Landscape Guardians hit squad.

      I think it’s called “branch stacking” in another forum – equally as corrupt. If you could only get your science straight, you wouldn’t be so ridiculous. Hint: stop listening to fruitcake frauds like Chris Monckton. You’re only doing yourself damage by being seen in public next to him.

      1. That a rather aggressive letter, I think Mark should tone it down or be considered a bully type, like Holmes a Court tries to be. Most of the Baringhup people at the meeting we concerned local farmers who dont like the industry bullshit. I dont live very far away and often pass thru the lovely unspoilt area. There is no connection whatsover between a perceived need for wind turbines with action on climate change. I run on solar myself. Put an industrial wind power complex in Mark’s backyard and see how he squeals.

  3. Ah, how wonderful it is to see the writings of the cool, calm, intellectual voice of your average wind advocate.

    Mr Hornblower cannot contain his out-of-control zealot tendencies and must resort to personal attack and abuse, completely neglecting any substance to his non-argument.

    Sadly, this is the way with many wind advocates, especially when they are tied in with climate (no) change, The Greens and Agenda 21 (whoo-hoo, just watch the rabid zealots come out from under their rocks for that one).

    Seriously, Mr Horner does a gross dis-service to his cause by use of his antagonistic and inaccurate comments.

    The zealots are the first to yell, “Play the ball, not the man”, but are also the first to “Play the man, not the ball”.

  4. Thanks for the comments everyone. Unfortunately the tone of the wind farm debate has become quite nasty. I think it’s time for people to collect themselves and engage in a more civil manner.

    Geraldine, I’m interested in your comment about climate change and Agenda 21. Do you care to elaborate on your thoughts? To me, it sounds a bit conspiratorial. Do you deny the science of climate change?

    Thanks. L

  5. So, when I call ill-informed and aggressive rhetoric “bullshit”, I get called a bully? Hornblower? it’s not even clever: its peurile. I can see a few glass jaws being thrust forward belligerently. Why don’t the anti-winders come clean? It’s either ” they’re ugly” or “how would you like it in your backyard?” Or “We’ll all be turned into diseased and pathologically grumpy sleep-deprived freaks!” Begs the question. We’ll, money where my mouth is: I’m part of WISE – Woodend Integrated Sustainable Energy – and we are lobbying for three wind turbines near town. Any power generation facility that supplants fossil-fuel power generation is stopping CO2 going into the atmosphere is acting against climate change – sorry, Geraldine: the vast majority of EXPERTS say it is occurring, no matter what your backwoods homespun wisdom say is happening. Ugly is in the eye of the beholder – the number of times I’ve heard farmers blow hot and cold depending on whether they get rent from having a turbine on their property – most, once they get used to the idea, are happy to take the rent (and the deformed calf foetuses and curly earthworms or whatever other ‘bullshit’ excuses come up on non-included properties). Amazing how these disappear when the town gets some full-time jobs and more spending money coming in. You’re not the first witch-burners to shriek when someone tells them their suspicions are flawed.

    1. So, it’s true, Mr Hornblower thinks that being a bully makes him right. That is so old hat. If only the theory was correct that wind turbines make any positive difference apart from lining industry pockets.

      Wind turbines degrade health and the environment and have nothing to do with fixing planetary problems. We can’t even be sure that they actually generate more power than it takes to make, install, run, provide back-up with thermal power for when not running and de-commission them. A clean, green image is one thing, the ground truth is another, and it’s not pretty! Having found an alternative truth and, being a staunch defender of the environment (having been a Greenpeace campaign co-ordinator 30 years ago, a Landcare group founder and permaculture prioneer), I despair at seeing the way the wind industry has hijacked the green movement and wrecked it with a load of fluffy spin. Solar power is the way to go. It certainly isn’t contentious, nor does it divide communities.

      I am also a member of a sustainability group. The sordid wind industry has no place in a true environmentalist’s heart.

  6. As a postscript, and my last “aggressive” words on the topic – it’s a particularly weak argument you two are using – pretending to be the voice of reason against which the unwashed and unhinged hordes rant and rave illogically. I can do rectitude and boredom with the best of them: it’s just that I get sick of Laurie and Monckton’s lies being parroted ad nauseum at every meeting I go to. Be assured that’s what comes out, carbon-copied, every time. You may not know that’s where the words on your cheat-sheets are from, but having done some little research into this, I do. No science, not attribution of sources, no references or authorities cited, nothing except shrill, emotive “it’s MY town and you unfeeling Eco-capitalists want to WRECK it!” (Almost word for word from Macarthur several years ago).

    The voice of reason? I don’t think so. Would you rather try and subsist in increasingly deregulated wool, wheat and produce markets, with nothing to stop you getting turfed out by the bank when it goes bad a couple of years in a row. Hmm? Perhaps you could retire to the beach, where the level of infrasound from the waves is 3 or more times higher than right under a turbine, and start to froth at the mouth (or lose sleep, or give birth to ADHD kids, or something) down there.

  7. No, I’m going to go back on my word. “Sordid wind industry” if that emotive and loaded (with little evidence) phrase isn’t the mark of a prejudiced fixed idea, I don’t know what is. Yes, keep trotting out the ‘bully’ line, you poor little flower. Can’t hold up an argument supported by evidence, so you burst into tears? Get over it. Some more figures, some more evidence for the last wild assertions, please. I’m sick of the anti-winders hiding their real agenda (distributed, maybe community owned renewables=bad, centrally owned, capital intensive and corporate controlled fossil fuels=good, then projecting the slur of of heartless corporatism onto wind investment ) behind bogus science, appeals for ‘even handedness’, and finally, hurt pride, that I’m keep calling “bullshit” until your promised peer-reviewed evidence for your bogus claims of health damage (and mass species extinction, foetal abnormalities, and the other nearly 200 ‘syndromes’ that various anti-wind nutcases have trotted out all round the globe) from wind turbines appears. Until then, you’re telling untruths. Self-referential vanity publishing doesn’t count. So what is it that you don’t like about them? Toxic emissions? Groundwater pollution? Spills and accidental releases of toxic material? Big holes in the ground? None of those? What about the over 25% of electricity that they generated for SA last year?

    How they look?

    Is that all?

    I can’t understand how a supposedly environmentally minded person has come to such an incongruous position. There’s some deeply implanted ideas in your head that just don’t gel to me. Such an anti-wind stance on a pro-wind blog, when you just KNOW someone like me will take a cane to you, smacks of masochism. If you’re not just a carefully camouflaged troll, you’re doing a pretty good impression of one.

    1. I think Mr Hornblower has forgotten to take his pills this morning. What a charmer! He has done the anti-wind industry a great favour in showing the sort of people who are drawn into this evil web of lies.

      The biggest lie is that wind turbines mitigate greenhouse gases. Nobody at Macwind has been able to answer my question – what is the true and complete energy cost of a turbine over its full lifetime and de-commissioning? The Dutch government commissioned study last year found no cost-benefit whatsoever. Amazing greenwash job! I wont bother talking with the great hornblower anymore, as he isnt wasting time on.

  8. When you stop your schoolyard insults, and come up with some evidence for your opinions, you’ll have something to add. I’ve called you on lack of evidence for your beliefs, and you stoop to name calling. Well done. I’m sure the Oxford Union is looking for debaters of your calibre – so why don’t you fly off over there? Oh yes, on an airliner that generates thousands of tonnes of CO2 during its lifetime. To answer your fairly elementary and asinine question: The average modern 600kW turbine, over a nominal lifespan of 20 years (and probably much longer) in an environment producing 7 m/s of wind 60% of the time, will generate at least 30 GIGAWATT hours of electricity. That’s a lot. Subtract 500 MWh for a very generous production and maintenance allowance, and you’ve got 29.5 GWh credit. That’s right. Energy gained without burning anything,

    My source? Right here:


    See just up there? That’s a citation. (Or maybe it’s a small part of a thought-control plot by the United Nations for World Government – which is something I’ve seriously had suggested to me by several anti-winder fruitloops is behind wind energy. You may not go that far- but I’m starting to have my doubts about that). That means that YOU, or indeed anyone, can rub their opposable thumbs against their forefingers to warm them up, and type it into a browser to check if I’m telling the truth about what I say. I’m assuming that you have some. That’s what’s missing from YOUR argument – and thus you can see my, or anyone’s problem with your approach to the issue – the complete lack or credible ones of those in your argument. I’d go into the concept of ‘peer review’ for you as well, but, quite frankly, I’m bored by your lack of depth and no sign of attempting to understand what your prejudices won’t let you.

    Got anything else to add? No? Off you trot then. Do you need a hand lifting your rock to climb back under? Oh dear, that WAS unkind, wasn’t it?

  9. I attended the meeting (I am a volunteer with MACWind) and sat up the back and watched the crowd.

    I was very impressed by the restraint and respect that was shown by most people. I was most un-impressed by the small group of anti-wind campaigners who sat together, and interjected and yelled. It was (in my opinion) shrill, and the finger pointing was childish.

    The MC did a great job of keeping people to their alloted time, and did so regardless of who was speaking. If this is ‘controlled’, then its a necessary form of control given that some people clearly weren’t prepared to demonstrate self restraint.

    I am intrigued by Alanna’s statement above that:

    “Of course, big business, via Ho,mes a Court is the root of this evil”.

    Given this is an attempt to build a community-owned energy project, I wonder if you could elaborate about how ‘big business’ is influencing this project?

    1. Holmes a Court via Hepburn Wind, Embark etc, is into thinking big. His family own 9% of Hepburn Wind shares. The Baringhup community could not afford to invest $24 million and, if the Hepburn model is used, anyone who wants to be a shareholder suddenly becomes “community”, interstate, overseas….

      The Baringhup community have told Macwind in no uncertain terms that their INDUSTRIAL WIND COMPLEX IS NOT WANTED IN BARINGHUP. 75% at the January meeting registered their NO by a show of hands. Macwind appears to fail in understanding what NO means.

      As for the February meeting, my finger pointing was the best thing! Just to set the record straight, he was getting his own medicine at the time as he was outrageously accusing everyone else of misinformation, and was acting like a child whose candy could be taken away. “No!” I protested, “it was YOU spreading misinformation! ” Anyone can listen to the recording of the meeting to hear how belligerant the windies were. (Although I imagine it will be ‘disappeared’). That’s why we dont really have much to say to them except GIVE UP NOW.

      1. That seems like a rather long bow to draw, Alanna…. making an assumption that ‘big business’ will somehow become a dominating influence in a community owned project. It would be very hard to suggest that that is the case with Hepburn.

        As for the ‘windies’ being belligerent, I do have to disagree with you on that one.

        And I would suggest that your conspiracy theory that the recording of the meeting will be ‘disappeared’ casts some interesting light on your view of the world.

    1. Excuse me! I know nothing of that group. And a troll is a forest spirit in Scandinavia. I am an internationally acclaimed author and teacher. (My books are published by Acres USA and one is in Chinese.) Stop sidestepping the issues you lot. Wind turbines are not wanted in Baringhup. Nor in Smeaton, where they pretended that it was the lack of wind to stop them doing it. It was the ire of the locals that stopped it. End of story.

  10. Now back from an overseas teaching trip, I can comment on Cam Walker’s comment:
    “your conspiracy theory that the recording of the [Baringhup Wind ‘Farm’] meeting will be ‘disappeared’ casts some interesting light on your view of the world”.

    Yes, I am interested in the light of the truth. My premonition was correct. The recording has a serious omission – the words of would-be turbine host Ron Neilsen are not on it! While Mr Neilson was not really in a fit state to be speaking on a panel, nevertheless he did state that he would WITHDRAW HIS OFFER TO HOST THE TURBINES IF THE COMMUNITY DIDNT WANT IT.

    Such a statement would be very bad for business, so puff!!! it disappears like magic. Wow! The community impact denial business can breathe a little easier now. But we heard his words and we have no trust in the process.

    If you lot want to save the planet how about denouncing meat eating, big cars, tobacco and alcohol consumption, etc etc. Or are you too hooked into unsustainable lifestyles yourselves?

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