Yass Valley Council (YVC) does not want any more wind turbines on its patch.
That was the in-principle stance councillors took at their May meeting.
However, within 24 hours of the meeting, Cr Nathan Furry submitted a rescission motion to be considered at the June forum.
Prior to the resolution, eight speakers (in favour of the motion) presented to the council and members of the public their positions about the matter.
There were no speakers from the public against the motion.
Issues raised included environmental and health effects, aesthetics, devaluing of land and property, division of communities, and decommissioning.
David Sainsbury spoke about the effects on rural lifestyles.
“People are drawn to live here by the spectacular natural scenery – why would people want to come to live here in place where there are industrial turbines on the hilltops?”
Mr Sainsbury also said wind turbines had created divisions of communities.
“I can tell you now that communities have already been shattered. Because I’m in the Rye Park area, it’s shattered out there and I believe it’s like that everywhere else,” he said.
He urged the council to follow the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council in relation to the Jupiter Wind Farm, which was rejected by the NSW Government in February 2018.
“It was stopped because the local council recognised the effects wind turbines would have on the area and they stood with the people.
“So what I’m asking is asking you as a council to do the same – to support us,” he said.
We will be left with a sea of rusting steel across the top of the beautiful Coppabella Hills – this is nothing short of environmental vandalism.Jackie Groom, resident
Fellow resident Jackie Groom spoke about the Copabella Wind Farm, about 30km west of Yass, and its damages to the environment.
“We will be left with a sea of rusting steel across the top of the beautiful Coppabella Hills – this is nothing short of environmental vandalism,” she said.
“Despite the name wind farms, they are not farms – they are industrial electricity-generating factories.
“Wind energy advocates are chiefly motivated by the desire for profit, not about preserving rural communities or the interest of the majority of its landholders,” she said.
Currently, approvals have been given to four proposed wind farms in the valley: Conroy’s Gap, Rye Park, Bango and Yass Valley/Coppabella.
The Bango Wind Farm was recently approved by the state’s Independent Planning Commission after the proposal was scaled back from 75 to 71 turbines.
“A stunt”: Australian Wind Alliance
In response, Australian Wind Alliance’s national coordinator Andrew Bray said the motion was “a stunt to railroad the council into an anti-wind stance that is against the best interests of Yass Valley residents”.
“This is no way for council to be making decisions that threaten the substantial jobs and investment that wind farms will deliver for the Yass region,” he said.
Asked about the lack of pro-wind-turbine speakers at the meeting, Mr Bray said that while it was appropriate residents' concerns were heard and considered, only opposing views were heard before the motion.
Most Yass Valley residents support wind farms and it was simply poor process that none of their views were heard before the motion was put.Andrew Bray, national coordinator at Australian Wind Alliance
“We have door-knocked businesses in the area and spoken with farmers and we know these objectors' concerns are not widely shared,” he said.
“Most Yass Valley residents support wind farms and it was simply poor process that none of their views were heard before the motion was put.”
However, he welcomed the rescission motion, saying it would allow time for YVC to regroup and use the upcoming workshop to properly consider the economic and social wellbeing of all Yass Valley residents.
How the opposition came about
Cr Frost, who moved the motion and is the YVC representative on the Bango Wind Farm Consultative Community Committee, argued that while YVC was not the determining authority, it needed to amend its policy to increase its input into the state planning process.
“It is not a difference of policy between staff and council that is at issue here, but the need to change a council policy that was no longer serving us well,” he said.
“We’ve confined ourselves to the impacts that turbines have on our local infrastructure, in particular our roads and not much more than that.
“We, the local council, are silent – absolutely dead silent on it.
“We’ve basically absconded, run from the field. That information that should be feeding into that process [wind farm approvals by the NSW Government] isn’t there.”
We, the local council, are silent – absolutely dead silent on it.Councillor Geoff Frost
Cr Frost said all other decisions outside of wind farm approvals were “ours to make”.
“If we don’t even have a view and tell the world our view about whether or not we should put industrial turbines here, then we’re letting ourselves down and letting that whole planning process down.”
He said the resolution was not a blanket ban.
“We do not have the power to ban them like the ACT Government has.
“It is a statement of principle based on the known effects of turbines on the landscape, in the community and on residents’ economic well-being.
“Of course council would consider the merits of specific projects,” he said.
Collaboration to continue
Yass Valley mayor Rowena Abbey said the speakers raised a number of good points at the meeting and that YVC was willing to collaborate with all stakeholders.
“That includes working with the residents and speakers at the May meeting and those who are for wind turbines.
“It’s really difficult when it’s such a divisive issue,” she said.
“The rescission motion is chance for us to revisit the decision and to see if it’s the one we want to make or if there’s a better way to do it.”
Cr Furry, in submitting the rescission motion, said the principle to oppose was a blanket ban on any wind turbine proposals.
“Councillors and staff must continue to remain impartial, independent and fact-driven in making submissions on behalf of the community relating to any future wind farming proposals within the Yass Valley LGA, noting at this time that there are no known emerging proposals,” Cr Furry said.
He said the current resolution echoed the emotions of speakers at the meetings, which “substantially impairs council's ability to consider any and all impacts of future wind farming proposals and hinders our ability to arguably serve all residents of the Yass Valley community”.
Should the May 2018 resolution stand after the June meeting, the policy position would be conveyed to proponents.
YVC’s planning director Chris Berry said that the only implication for the planning department was “the lack of reasons in the resolution to support the policy position”.
YVC will also hold a workshop to determine the wording about its position on industrial wind turbine farms, which will be presented to the NSW Government.
Prior to the workshop, YVC will host a planning forum for invited presenters on both sides of the debate to address councillors.
“The purpose of the forum is for councillors to obtain a better understanding of the issues prior to its workshop,” Mr Berry said.
The forum will be held at 4.30pm Wednesday June 13, 2018 in the annex at Yass Soldiers Memorial Hall.
Members of the public may also attend as observers.