On August 17, Leigh Ewbank of Yes 2 Renewables was a proud guest presenter at the BEAM-Mitchell Environment Group‘s annual general meeting. The event featured presentations on local food and biodiversity links within the shire, and was attended by three local councillors keen to find out more about the group.
Late last year, Yes 2 Renewables and the BEAM-Mitchell Environment Group partnered up to fight back against an anti-wind farm scare campaign. Out-going vice president of BEAM, Peter Lockyer, had the following to say about the partnership:
The Cherry Tree Range windfarm planning application has dominated the past year’s activities.
The proposal by Infigen for 14 wind turbines on Cherry Tree Range was the first application in the state under the new restrictions introduced by the Baillieu Government with the need for residential consent within a 2km radius. [The new State planning requirements for windfarms almost make them impossible on siting grounds]. The proposal suits the barren ranges site, with few immediate residents (within 2km) and being more than 10km from Seymour, downwind from Seymour, and some distance from the historic Trawool Valley. The proposal meets the new State planning rules but has attracted emotional opposition fuelled by the Landscape Guardians, a group opposed to wind farms per se, and driven by the Waubra Foundation and its hierarchy of investors in the fossil fuel and mining industry.
A stage-managed “public” meeting in Trawool in mid- 2012 caught BEAM on the back foot. This was a meeting where all news was bad news. A campaign of letters to the editor condemning the wind farm on any number of health, environment, economic and social concerns ensured. [Infrasound is their favourite, but I think Real Estate values is the sleeper issue]. These concerns are to be found on the (on again, off again) Landscape Guardian website. These are issues not peculiar to wind farms at all, and can be found in all towns in Australia. The backing science is absent, but the hostility attracted strong emotion. The fears feed a public hungry for information.
This emotion was very present at the hastily convened Council meeting to address the wind farm application in October 2012. Council played into the hands of the crowd of predominantly Trawool and Whiteheads Creek residents, and rejected the Council Officer’s recommendation to support the Application. Council voted 9-0 against. The result triggered a ferocious letter-writing campaign to local press outlets: emotion and “factoids” versus science, rationale and the bigger climate change picture. Sales of the Seymour Telegraph rocketed. This was the hot story in town!
Facts, perspectives, and lies. The Landscape Guardians then circulated a flyer in the immediate area with a clutch of statements and “facts” without substantiation, and not necessarily related to the Cherry Tree Range context.
BEAM responded with an extended Committee meeting to consider a strategy forward. The meeting was emphatic that BEAM had a proactive and a leadership role in the community to play on the issue of low carbon futures, and alternatives to centralised coal power. WE were committed to the fight. We would:
- create a flyer of FACTS about windpower to circulate in the immediate and broader Mitchell Shire;
- continue our letter writing and public engagement at markets;
- be present at the forthcoming VCAT hearings.
Private donations for the flyer ensured, raising about $3,100 and BEAM decided to top this up another $1300 for the professionally printed leaflet, distributed in the mail and newspaper in the Seymour, Tallarook and Broadford area.
BEAM drew strength from Friends of the Earth’s “Yes2Renewables” campaign. This resulted in a shared “listening post” at Lancefield Market, letter-writing support, and more ears and eyes to the many media posts on the issue.
BEAM also drew strength from positive comments on our website, and a number of new members ensued following the leaflet.
The VCAT hearings were scheduled for 10 days, but crawled on for many more. BEAM members were present to observe every day’s proceedings. BEAM made a written response. Member Bob Tompkins made a personal presentation. Member Sarah Durrant ‘s posts were a great read: detailed, insightful, cynical at times…the best read. We await her book on the hearings and especially on “Dr” Sarah Lawrie and her colourful presentation condemning all with her “bogus science”. The “Dr” persists despite her combatants exposing her lack of science in similar evidence- based hearings like VCAT.
The VCAT chair eventually heard all, and made an interim finding that the Cherry Tree Range windfarm met the Planning Scheme requirements and created no significant threats to the natural or built or social or economic environments. However a final decision was reserved until two outstanding health reports are concluded, one from the South Australian EPA, and the other a revised review of published papers on windfarms and adverse health effects, particularly infrasound (and VAD vibroacoustic disease) from the NHMRC
VCAT is to reconvene in September for the final decision.
Linking with other groups. The building of a relationship with Yes2Renewables has been a positive outcome of the Cherry Tree Range windfarm issue. Drawing strength from likeminded organisations is crucial when environmental perspectives are under siege.