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Save Twofold Bay's Letter to Barry O'Farrell

Draft letter to Barry O'Farrell


Dear Premier


Re: Development Application no. 2011.0362: Eden Wind Farm


We write to you on behalf of a large number of concerned members of the Sapphire Coast Community, including the Party members whose names appear below, in the hope that you will ensure that the above application is dealt with fairly in the eyes of the community.


An application has been made to Bega Valley Shire Council for the development of a seven turbine wind farm on the south head of Twofold Bay, Eden. The subject site, which is currently used for the purpose of wood chipping, comprises an isolated parcel of freehold land abutting Ben Boyd National Park and State Forest.


As you may be aware, the Far South Coast region was recently given Australia's Coastal Wilderness designation largely due to the efforts of senior members of NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and the regional tourist authority. Eden is acknowledged as the centrepoint of Australia's Coastal Wilderness and has been described as its "jewel in the crown".


We are aware that several rural communities throughout NSW have concerns about the visual impact of wind turbines on landscape values and we appreciate that a balance needs to be struck between local community concerns and perceptions of a broader "public good" in the implementation of renewable energy initiatives. The Eden proposal has a major distinguishing factor, however. There is a direct link between landscape values and the local economy. Our concerns go far beyond visual detriment for local residents. We believe that the establishment of a wind farm within the Twofold Bay area would have severe economic consequences for the whole Sapphire Coast region and NSW tourism generally.


The economy of Eden has suffered due to cut backs in the timber and fishing industries. Many local businesses are now being kept afloat by a burgeoning tourist industry. It would be fair to say that tourism is the only growth area presently available to Eden. We have great expectations of a substantial rise in visits by international tourists due to marketing of the Australia's Coastal Wilderness brand. A survey conducted by Tourism Australia earlier this year found Eden wharf to be the most visited tourist destination on the Sapphire Coast. It is vital that this trend should be maintained and enhanced. What happens at Eden, tourism wise, has implications for the whole of this coast.


We are strongly of the view that the construction of 135 metre high wind turbines (equivalent to 45 storey buildings in height), would, because of their essentially "industrial" character, be so manifestly out of context with the wild beauty of Twofold Bay as to severely diminish any "wilderness" character. In turn, this would diminish opportunities for a tourism-led recovery for Eden and the region. Because of the small number of wind turbines in the proposal and its modest contribution in terms of renewable energy, there would be insufficient broader "public good" or local employment to offset predicted levels of local community detriment.


Rather than go into chapter and verse on this issue, we enclose copies of three letters. The first, dated 22 November 2011, is from Mr Bruce Leaver, Chairman of Sapphire Coast Tourism Ltd to Council in which he points out the importance of maintaining the "wilderness" character of Twofold Bay. The second is from the Manager of Eden Visitor Information Centre to the local newspaper and published on 8 December 2011. This expresses similar views.


The third letter dated 22 November 2011 is from the "Save Twofold Bay" group to Tim Shepherd, Regional Manager, National Parks and Wildlife Service. That letter also notes the conflict between wind turbines and the "wilderness" character of the Twofold Bay backdrop. Reference is made in the letter to the proposed comprehensive redevelopment of the "Light-to-Light Walk" from Boyd's Tower near the proposed wind farm site to Greencape Lighthouse. Robyn Parker announced a tender process for this project earlier this year and we understand that several tenders are presently under consideration. As the letter notes, this eco-tourism initiative would also be detrimentally affected by the wind farm proposal.


We are aware that draft wind farm guidelines are being released for public comment prior to adoption by your Government. Since the Eden application has not yet been determined by Council or the Southern Region Planning Panel, we believe that it should not proceed any further and that any consideration of it should be deferred until the new guidelines are adopted. We have been informed, however, that Brad Hazzard is unwilling to delay the determination of current wind farm applications pending adoption of the new guidelines and that he maintains that they should only apply to new proposals which have not yet reached the formal application stage.


We request that you investigate this matter and, if necessary, give directions regarding the progress of undetermined wind farm applications pending the adoption and publication of the new guidelines. While we have no way of knowing the likely content of the guidelines, we anticipate that they may, like guidelines in other jurisdictions, urge restraint in the case of highly sensitive locations.


In our view, the local people deserve the benefit of at least knowing that this proposal has been properly evaluated according to expert criteria prior to proceeding to its determination by Council and the Panel. We respectfully request that you take appropriate steps to ensure that they are afforded that benefit.