Reflections on the Cherry Tree Range wind farm debate

Cherry Tree Range, near Trawool.

The Cherry Tree Rage wind farm approved by VCAT last week sparked a debate about wind energy technology that lasted a year. It’s OK for people to have disagreements about the aesthetics of wind farms in the bush.

For me, wind farms represent the future of our energy system, innovation, an economic lifeline for communities, and action on climate change. Unfortunately, opponents of wind farms grasp at arguments that aren’t supported by evidence in an attempt to bolster their position such as the claim that wind farms cause ill health effects.

More research is not needed on wind energy and health. There are now 19 reviews by credible health bodies that show wind energy is clean and safe. It’s time for people to accept the findings and, in the words of VCAT, “respect” the views of state authorities.

Another argument that has persisted throughout the debate is that wind farms will cause bushfires. While I understand the community’s fear after the destructive Black Saturday fires, the fear does not match the risk.

According to the Victorian Government, lightning strike is responsible for 26 percent of wildfires and 46 percent of the area burned. 25 percent of bush fires are deliberately lit. Other causes of fire are burning off, campfires, matches and cigarettes, machinery, and escaped back burning. Wind farms are not listed among the sources of ignition.

The presence of wind turbines in the landscape may actually reduce fire risk. The structures are fitted out with lightning protection devices and allow nature’s electrical currents a safe path to the ground.

Lastly, to set the record straight on the Freedom of Information request that identified the expenses incurred by the Mitchell Shire’s participation in the VCAT hearings.

The reason I sought these details was to quantify how much money the anti-wind farm groups had cost the Mitchell Shire and ratepayers by hijacking the VCAT hearings. Council representatives stated at the outset that they did not reject the wind farm on health grounds, yet it was health arguments which dominated and dragged out the hearings.

The FoI request discovered the council incurred $165,210.72 worth of costs prior to August 21. While council has claimed the figure is incorrect, it stands, as it was drawn from their figures. If anything, the figure underestimates the total costs to ratepayers because it only accounted for expenditure incurred prior to the conclusion of the case.

If the anti-wind groups stayed out of the matter, the hearings would have been much shorter. And shorter means cheaper for Mitchell Shire ratepayers.

Now that the wind farm has been approved, it’s time for opponents to accept the judgment of VCAT and respect the body of evidence that shows that wind energy is clean and safe. I believe that the ranks of people who support the local wind farm will swell once it is built and the benefits are realised.


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*Community pic courtesy of the Seymour Telegraph

6 thoughts on “Reflections on the Cherry Tree Range wind farm debate

  1. I am so glad to see this wind farm moving ahead. As locals to the area, there was much discussion in our home about the benefits of renewable energy and in particular, The Cherry Tree Wind farm. However it means more to me than just a sensible decision around our energy sources. The approval of the farm signals to my young children that they DO live in a progressive world and that ‘the powers that be’ DO care about their future!

  2. Good for you Linda, I hope you are representative of the vast majority of people in your region. Your forward thinking is commendable and I’m sure your children and grandchildren will be proud to know you put the environment, reason and science ahead of any private concerns you may have held. Once the wind farm has been commissioned and become operational, I’m pretty sure you will find it becomes a nonissue, like it has here in South Gippsland.

  3. Yep, no problems at all!

    Senator MADIGAN (Victoria) (21:07):

    ” In 2002, well before Professor Simon Chapman’s nocebo effect and five or more years before the Waubra Foundation was set up, people in the once quiet seaside town of Toora in South Gippsland started complaining about noise nuisance. They had not been visited by anybody stirring them up or telling them that one day they might feel sick. What had happened is the construction of a wind farm near this little town by the Queensland government’s Stanwell Corporation.
    Toora was one of the earliest wind farms in Australia. The people reported their complaints and illness to the local GP, Dr David Iser. He had not been visited by any anti-wind-farm activists either. He was just the local GP doing his job on Gippsland’s beautiful coast and now wondering why so many people were turning up in his surgery complaining about noise and reporting various symptoms.
    South Gippsland Shire Council started receiving complaints too. In 2005, they commissioned an independent review of the noise-monitoring data collected at Toora by the Stanwell Corporation. The review found all sorts of problems with the way the noise monitoring was being conducted that distorted and limited the data. It also found that the wind farm was breaching Victoria’s wind farm noise standard. The complaints continued, more reviews were done and nothing improved.
    In 2007, or thereabouts, the local council stopped checking the noise monitoring at Toora. Over the next couple of years, the operator bought out some of the complainants and their houses were removed and destroyed. Other complainants were paid out too. Gag money coupled with legally binding confidentiality agreements were papered over the problem, silencing the complaints. Yet Toora wind farm continued churning out noise into the local community and still does to this day. What happened at Toora was the pattern of the wind industry’s behaviour that would be repeated across Victoria—and probably Australia.”

    And that is only 12 turbines!


    1. I feel their days are numbered TCW. Before long Blair will have to find someone else to pick on. It is pretty damming what the senator had to say but honesty has never been a wind industry strong point. They wrecked small towns for years on divide and rule and it has worked up until now.When it is all over BD will look back at himself in shame.

    2. TCW, regarding the Toora wind farm, Sen Madigan is guilty of rewriting history at the very least. The truth is that individuals that became members of the prom coast guardians were active in the community before the Toora wind farm was constructed. During an information session held here in Foster, about half a dozen of the 80-90 crowd were actively heckling the people from Stanwell. As I recall the information day was instigated by Stanwell, not from pressure by the majority of locals. All the anti-wind claims being yelled out came directly from the British landscape guardians, in some cases word for word.

      It is not true that “many people” were turning up to the surgery complaining about noise. A few people where. I know this because David is my GP and we have discussed the subject on a number of occasions. From time to time I do a little research for him providing interesting medical findings etc which he occasionally uses with the Monash medical students who rotate through this area as part of their country GP training experience.

      One of the most vocal opponents is a local called Stephen Garito, until he accepted the buyout offer from the wind farm owner, he complained that his hearing was destroyed, he made numerous other claims. So I think it’s interesting that he is now working for my nephew from time to time in a metal fabrication/engineering business where all sorts of noisy machinery is operating throughout the day. Wouldn’t you think somebody who claimed to have supposedly damaged, delicate hearing wouldn’t want to subject himself to further damage? I have heard some very interesting stories about the man, he is well known locally but not highly regarded – apart from his welding abilities.

      I agree that the Gippsland coast is beautiful but it’s odd that wind farms have been banned while CSG exploration and development will go ahead after the moratorium ends, conveniently after the next state election. Doesn’t that strike you as odd?

      I think you will find the noise monitoring conducted by Stanwell met all required procedures and that noise was only occasionally an issue in certain wind directions. Get hold of the original report.

      I’ll make you an offer, if you ever come to South Gippsland, I’ll happily take you to the wind farm and introduce you to a number of nearby residents who you can question directly. I will be amazed if you seriously believe the wind farm is noisy or that these people are lying when they say they don’t mind living next to it.

      You could try talking to the owners of the local bookshop, who bought their property and built their house adjacent to the wind farm after the project was completed. They do not understand what the fuss is about. Ask for Jan or Rob at Foster’s Little Bookshop.

      Madigan also failed to mention that one of the people who was bought out by the company was actually a wind farm supporter but because she was receiving so much grief from Garito and her other neighbour – she was undermining their claims, she accepted the offer from Stanwell and moved to Queensland.

      Madigan is only telling a very small part of the story and what he is describing is altered out of all reality.

      So you can believe a confirmed conspiracy theorist, climate change denialist, scientific illiterate and political opportunist or you could ask others like myself who actually live in the area and have no problems with the wind farm.

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