When VCAT handed down its finding for Infigen’s Cherry Tree Range wind farm at the end of November some Mitchell Shire residents were quick to air their views on the outcome. Last week (on 4th December 2013) the Seymour Telegraph published a two page article about the case, incorporating views from across the spectrum of opinion, including two letters to the editor.
A casual reader of the Telegraph could be forgiven for thinking that at least two quite different VCAT cases were being described, but those who attended the long running hearing were indeed seated in the same room listening to the same evidence. However, our perception of the events and our interpretation of the evidence show marked differences, as do our reactions to the findings.
There are contributions to the Telegraph that appear to describe something akin to a looming apocalypse – plagues of adverse health impacts, threats of unstoppable wildfire and plummeting house prices, with one respondent warning of an all-out environmental catastrophe. These are much the same range of concerns that were voiced by some objectors at the commencement of the hearing. The intervening months of evidence have made little difference to their original stance. Also included now are some allegations of fraud, and even suggestions of corrupt practices by VCAT itself – a response that’s not entirely unexpected if experiencing difficulty in accepting the Tribunal’s findings.
Other quite different views were also presented in the article from among the many in the community who applaud the planning decision. They view the finding as one based upon science and quality evidence; they talk of welcoming a wind farm to their locality and look towards the future with optimism. They see a wind farm not just as an environmentally sound means to provide power from renewable energy, but a much-needed boost to their local economy, and also something that will provide social benefits for the locality. They see opportunities on the horizon and one of the letters in the Seymour Telegraph includes just a couple of reasons why:
The VCAT determination for the Cherry Tree Wind Farm planning application has finally been handed down and, as polls and experience elsewhere already tell us, most Mitchell residents are likely to welcome the positive outcome. Planning approval has been granted
The detail in the newly released finding will be reassuring to residents, as it dispels the myths that have been generated about wind farms and wind turbines. Wind farms are safe and the Tribunal has found there to be no evidence of a causal link between wind turbines and alleged adverse health impacts.
There are many benefits that a wind farm can bring to this region, and perhaps now we might look to the future and consider some of the opportunities that this planning decision could provide for Mitchell Shire.
Wind farm developers are typically strong supporters of the communities they work within, and it’s quite usual for some funds from the sale of electricity to be put back into those communities where wind farms are sited – Friends of the Earth has estimated this to be as much as $80,000 per year. The locals themselves often help determine the most appropriate way to apply these funds for the betterment of their community. Whether it goes into environmental projects, into the maintenance of a village hall, in support of a footy team or towards a community event, the chance is there to create a stronger, more cohesive community through opportunities that may otherwise be out of reach.
Another myth that has been propagated is that wind farms deter tourists. With the Rail Trail already in place, the Trawool Valley is ideally placed to strengthen its tourist appeal. Follow the lead of South Australia where they market their wind farms in tourism brochures, and canny locals take advantage of the passing trade by setting up farm-gate businesses and B&Bs. Recreational cyclists are typically among the most environmentally savvy, and there’s even some tourists who will visit a region for the sole purpose of seeing a wind farm.
It’s an exciting time for Mitchell Shire. The opportunities that this project could present are many. It’s whether we choose to seize those opportunities and make something of them that will define us to all those who are now keenly watching on.
BEAM stood up for a wind farm in their region. Sign the petition to stand with them!