A PROPOSAL for a huge wind farm at Rugby near Boorowa has set alarm bells ringing among some local farmers who fear it could deny them access to aerial agriculture and bushfire fighting services.
One concerned farmer, Joe McGuiness, “Willowmere”, east of Boorowa, said aerial agriculture operators had already told him the wind farm area would be a “no fly” zone.
The proposal by Suzlon Energy is for 90 turbines – each about 150 metres high – spread over about 25 properties.
It is close to another large wind farm proposed by Epuron and now before the NSW Government for up to 100 turbines across about 40 properties at Rye Park between Boorowa and Rugby.
Local residents are in the process of forming a Boorowa landscape guardians association, similar to those in other wind farm affected rural areas, notably Crookwell.
Mr McGuiness said the nearest tower would be within 100 metres of his property boundary and an aerial agriculture operator had told him they would observe a one-kilometre buffer zone around the wind farm.
“The ramifications of that are unbelievable for bushfire fighting, crop spraying and spreading super,” he said.
“Bushfires are a big problem. I was burnt out in 1979 and ground crews will not go in to fight a fire here now unless there is air support.”
Charlie Arnott, who runs a 2000-hectare biodynamic beef operation on nearby “Hanaminno”, said he had felt “physically sick” when he had seen a map showing twice as many turbines as he had previously believed would be built.
He said the nearest turbine would be 1.3 kilometres from his house.
“That theoretically means I would not get aerial support until the fire was 300 metres from my home.”
He said he had “nearly perished” in his house when a fire had swept through his property in the late 1970s.
Mr Arnott said he was also concerned about noise from turbines, and the impact on property values, given the Boorowa district was becoming popular with “tree changers”.
“There is evidence to suggest there is a negative impact on property values.”
He said he could be directly affected because he had bought some country a couple of years ago with sub-division potential.
Mr Arnott said he was not opposed to wind farms provided they were in appropriate areas, but this area was not suitable.
He was also aware the wind farm issue could split communities.
“I have good relationships with my neighbours (some of whom will have wind turbines on their properties) and I am committed to maintaining those relationships.
“It puts me in a difficult position.”
Mr Arnott said he was aware hosting wind farms provided an opportunity for land owners to make much needed extra income.
“But I fear some landholders may not be fully informed about the negative impact of these things,” he said.
He said NSW had no legislated buffer zone between turbines and dwellings although he believed Epuron was working on one kilometre.
“I strongly believe two kilometres is necessary,” Mr Arnott said.
“That’s what the Victorian government says is appropriate.”
State member for Burrinjuck, Katrina Hodgkinson, said she was starting to receive emails from land owners worried about health impacts and property values, and she also believed the Civil Aviation Safety Authority had expressed some concern.
“Because it all will be approved under Part 3A the government does not take these things into consideration.”
She said she was an “enormous” supporter of renewable energy – “but we have to make sure we do it right”.
Chief executive officer of the Aerial Agriculture Association of Australia, Phil Hurst, said “no fly” zones were a matter for individual operators, but the association’s position was that wind farm developers should take full account of the safety and economic impacts of their proposals.
The association also had concerns about wind monitoring towers which could be up to 80 metres high.
“The difficulty, particularly in NSW, is wind farms are given special treatment which result in a skewing of the development approval process which is inquitable,” Mr Hurst said.
Project manager for Suzlon, Mike Bagot, said detailed impact and risk assessments would be part of the process of applying for approval to the NSW Government.
“We can’t put forward a proposal that has significant impacts,” he said.
The Boorowa District Landscape Guardians Association is planning a public forum in Boorowa next Monday night, March 14, where Suzlon had been invited to speak.