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A Letter of Objection from Peter Barber

Wind Farm Disaster


A wind farm anywhere in Twofold Bay would not be good for Eden. There would be a modest amount of employment for about 12 months during construction, followed by decades of economic loss to the local community.


Its not that wind turbines are ugly. A lot of people think that they are quite elegant and graceful. In many places they attract tourists due to their enormous size. The problem is that, however elegant, they would introduce a clearly "industrial" aspect that would be totally at odds with the Twofold Bay landscape and would diminish its attractiveness. Like them or hate them, wind farms are extremely confronting and cause great community division.


I am not a greenie, but a qualified planning and environment professional who does a fair amount of work for industry. I support the continued operation of the SEFE chipmill as a significant element in the local economy. I support the establishment of a biomass power plant at the chipmill site and wave energy initiatives. I support the extension of the commercial wharf and its use for the handling and shipment of wind farm components for use in other places. I support the establishment of wave attenuation and a recreational marina at Snug Cove. These things would be good for Eden and its prosperity.


I am opposed to the development of a wind farm at the chip mill site or anywhere else in Twofold Bay because of first-hand professional experience. I acted for South Gippsland Shire Council in support of a wind farm at Toora, near Foster in Victoria, which was completed in 2002. Council had a very proactive wind farm policy (later discontinued) but the Toora community was bitterly divided on the issue. Like Eden's cannery, a local Bonlac food processing factory had closed and some townspeople hoped that the wind farm would generate local employment.


Some hopeful souls wrongly thought that they would get cheaper electricity!


Some Toora land owners, who would receive rental or lease payments for having wind turbines on their property did not object to the wind farm, but other locals, who had done some research into wind farms, objected on grounds such as effect on the landscape.


Those who hoped for an employment boost to the Toora township were bitterly disappointed. The wind farm was constructed using imported components and expert erection crews brought in from outside the region. A relatively small amount of local labour and concrete, earthmoving etc businesses were used over a year or so, but then it was all over. A low level of ongoing maintenance is carried out by company engineers who visit for short periods. Last week a member of the local Chamber of Commerce said "there is a bit of a tourist draw from the wind farm, but not any employment of locals really." An experienced local real estate agent said "when the wind farm went up, we couldn't sell anything. It was bad for 2 years. There is no doubt that it affects land values. A lot of local people are still against wind farms. The township is still divided about them. Prospective buyers have said that they don't want to buy properties with a view of wind towers and would prefer to buy elsewhere."


The 12 Toora turbines are painted off-white to merge with average sky colour and are located on a cleared ridge of farm land. They are shorter than the current standard height of 150 metres (just under 500 feet) from base to top of blade arc. Eden would probably get full size ones. In a well-balanced internet article and video ( "Living next door to a wind farm") a Toora local says "105 metre towers are huge. Do not underestimate the impact that they have on a local vista"


Let's be realistic. Because of government policy and government subsidies for wind farm developers and operators, plus an anticipated sharp rise in power consumption over the next decade and a global acceptance of clean energy ideals, it is inevitable that we will see several wind farms established on the Far South Coast in the relatively near future. That is not a bad thing, but a wind farm in Twofold Bay would be catastrophic for several reasons.


Twofold Bay is unique. It has a wild beauty that is the envy of the rest of the State and is a major drawcard for visitors and much loved by locals. However elegant wind turbines may be and however much they might "fit in" with the landscape in other places, they would be totally out of character and introduce a highly discordant "industrial" element into this particular landscape. Visitors, and particularly international and cruise ship passengers, are struck by the unspoilt beauty of our bay and its bushland backdrop. A wind farm would certainly put an end to "unspoilt"!


There are several vantage points for views towards the chipmill site. The Eden Lookout at Rotary Park commands a superb view over southern and western aspects of the bay and the chipmill site is central to that view. Pale coloured wind turbines would rise far above the National Park backdrop in order to capture south westerly winds and they would dwarf all current chipmill structures which are set within the tree line and blend fairly well into the background from a colour perspective. The fact that wind turbines rotate constantly adds to their "look at me" character. Wind turbines stand out in a way that cannot be conveyed by photo montages. To see is to be gobsmacked! Valued elements like the iconic Boyd's Tower would no longer be a distinctive feature in views from places like the lookout. At 19.5 metres, or one seventh the height of a wind turbine, Boyd's Tower, with its weathered sandstone colour, would be overwhelmed; the eye would be drawn to a nearby forest of giant structures.


Tourism does much to support the economy of Eden, which has suffered a few setbacks. Visitor numbers, including international tourists, are at an all-time record and the number is increasing rapidly. We are talking here about long term solid economic support for our beleaguered town. Anything that makes Eden even a little less attractive from a tourist viewpoint or erodes any competitive edge we have over rival destinations would inevitably translate into lower visitation rates, reduction in retail trade and hospitality services with implications for reduction of employment opportunities in supporting industries. Some might argue that this is overly pessimistic, but should we take the risk?


Wind farms can be tourist attractions in their own right. The Toora wind farm, for instance, attracts a fair number of tourists from the South Gippsland Highway. A wind farm at the Eden chipmill site, however, could only be reached via a long and circuitous drive. An active chipmill, with all of its security issues, would be unlikely to fall into any "major tourist attraction" category. In any event, there are a lot of wind farms currently in the pipeline throughout Australia. As wind farms become commonplace, their attraction for tourists will fade.


However much we love Eden, we must be honest about the fact that Twofold Bay is what really makes the town. Nothing should be allowed to diminish it in any way.


A major part of the residential development of Eden forms a sort of amphitheatre with views toward the south side of Twofold Bay and a lot of money has been invested in those views. In places like Cocora Beach, the imposition of a wind farm on the chipmill site would have a profound effect on views toward the south headland.


In 2009 the NSW Valuer General received a preliminary assessment on the impact of wind farms on property values. Apart from acknowledging that wind farms possibly have a negative affect on some "lifestyle" property values, this document is not conclusive. A better guide would be the opinion of experienced local real estate agents.


The proponents for a wind farm at the chipmill site(EPURON) admit that there are some negative aspects to wind farms, but argue that these would be offset by economic benefits such as employment of local contractors during construction, use of local services during construction (food, accommodation, fuel etc) and ongoing during operation. This needs closer examination. At the Information Day on 22/3/11 an EPURON representative advised that:


As to wider community economic benefit, a wind farm industry handout claims that "for every installed MW, wind farms inject $1.1m into the Australian economy." This "injection" is, however, well and truly paid for by taxpayer- funded government subsidies including Renewable Energy Certificates. In an article in "The Australian" on 6/12/10 it was said that "without subsidies, current electricity prices would need to triple to justify new wind capacity, which costs about $2.5 million per megawatt to build."


What direct benefits would Eden people get out of the proposed wind farm?  None really. A few jobs and a bit of expenditure by the construction team for about 12 months would be little recompense for likely social and economic losses to the community due to diminished attractiveness of Twofold Bay for tourists and locals alike plus potential for job losses in industries servicing the tourism sector with flow-on to others. SEFE would receive lease payments from the wind farm operator but EPURON notes that SEFE "will have no financial involvement in the project." It is not a case of making the chipmill operation more viable.


It appears that NSW will adopt National Wind Farm Development Guidelines which contain the observation that "there is no legal right to a view". This means that political pressure would be required to avert this disaster. The renewable energy concept is laudable in itself and deserves support, but there are certain places which are so special that wind farms should not be allowed to intrude. Twofold Bay is one such place. It is not a case of "not in my backyard" but "not in our major asset".


We have to make this point very strongly to Council and our new State Government. If we fail to stop this proposal we may, like many people at Toora, live to regret it.


Peter Barber