Umpire Red Cards the wind industry in Victoria – Infigen cops a gobful of dirt

left hangingCongratulations go out to the hundred or so members and supporters of the Trawool Valley and Whiteheads Creek Landscape Guardians who fought that ol’ STT favourite, Infigen, to a standstill over its Cherry Tree Range wind farm proposal.

You’ll remember STT bathing Infigen’s star performer, Laura Dunphy, in glory over the “porkies” she told locals about Sarah Laurie.

thelma and louiseThe Guardians were led by the dynamic duo, Sutton Waugh and Rebecca Fagan who make Thelma and Louise look like convent matrons.

Backed up by locals Dr Adam McCarthy, Andrew Forbes, Jamie Bell, Allan and Maxine Coulson, Peter Hill, Dick Waugh, Roger Stephenson and a cast of others, Sutton and Rebecca made a formidable pair who never let up during the marathon seven-week hearing.  For their efforts, STT says “hats off girls”!

Better organised, better informed, angrier and more energetic than your average community threatened by a stupidly-sited wind farm, they have managed to do something never achieved before in Victoria, or anywhere else in Australia for that matter.

The Guardians’ case focused on the evidence of negative health impacts from large industrial wind turbines.  Their barrister, Peter Quinn, kept thumping the bar table on that issue throughout the case.  And the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) listened.

So much so the Tribunal has refused to approve Infigen’s proposal in the absence of conclusive evidence that large industrial wind turbines do not cause adverse health effects, such as sleep disturbance.

Invoking the “precautionary principle”, the Tribunal was not prepared to overlook the mountain of evidence presented by the Guardians and the Waubra Foundation on the topic of turbine noise, sleep and health.

Despite claims by the wind industry that Sarah Laurie would not go into the witness box, the good Dr not only gave evidence, but clearly impressed the Tribunal with her knowledge, sincerity and compassion for affected country folk.  Well done Sarah.

Bob Thorne didn’t give evidence, but Dr Laurie did refer to his work. No doubt the Guardians will call on his services to further debunk Chapman’s nocebo nonsense.

Los Angeles Galaxy's Beckham reacts after teammate missed goal during their international friendly soccer match against AC Milan in CarsonSteve Cooper gave evidence and clearly impressed the Tribunal with his knowledge of the peculiar characteristics of wind turbine noise.

Read the judgment here.  The business really starts at paragraph [114], but here is some of what the Tribunal had to say:

There is evidence before the Tribunal that a number of people living close to wind farms suffer deleterious health effects.  The evidence is both direct [the statements of David Mortimer and Dr Sarah Laurie] and anecdotal [for example, the annexures to the statement of Dr Laurie].

There is a uniformity of description of these effects across a number of wind farms, both in south east Australia and North America.  Residents complain of suffering sleep disturbance, feelings of anxiety upon awakening, headaches, pressure at the base of the neck and in the head and ears, nausea and loss of balance.

The Tribunal considers that the issue of health and wellbeing raises two distinct questions.

The first question is whether there is a causal link between sound pressure emissions from wind turbines and adverse health effects on nearby residents.  The link may be physiological or psychological.

However, given that the respondents expressly disavow that the impact is psychological and that the so-called “nocebo effect” lacks any empirical basis, the inquiry in this case must be as to whether there is a physiological cause.  In this regard Mr Cooper hypothesised that wind turbines may emit a particular low frequency “signature” that gives rise to the problem.

Interesting to note that the “nocebo effect” reference arose because Infigen trotted out the recent paper by its favourite stooge, Simon Chapman who claims the suffering of people like Sonia Trist and Rikki Nicholson and Melissa Ware is a figment of their wild imaginations.

Prep Boy's Regional Final Soccer - Holland Christian vs Plainwell (10/23/08)Chapman’s diatribe was the last exhibit tendered by Infigen – here’s what the Guardians had to say about it.

Well, Simon, it seems your “late entry” didn’t sway the Tribunal, but then again your “research” was never tested.

Perhaps next time, Simon might be prepared to jump into the witness box and subject himself to a walloping cross examination.  Although STT wonders whether he would qualify as an expert witness in any first-world courtroom, unless of course he was talking about cigarette advertising.

The Tribunal heard evidence from all quarters that there is a need for further interdisciplinary studies on the impacts from large industrial wind turbines on noise, sleep and health.  They went to say:

One difficulty facing the satisfactory resolution of this question is that there appears to be no overlap of expertise between the acousticians and the health experts.  The acousticians can measure the noise but are unable to say what effect it has on human health.  The health experts can identify the health issues but are unable to connect those issues with particular levels of noise or sound pressure.  It is this that creates the need for interdisciplinary studies.

If the first question produces an affirmative answer, the second and equally important question is what is the incidence of health problems amongst the nearby residential population, and how does that incidence vary or attenuate with distance from the wind turbines.  Obviously the problem must be given greater weight by decision makers if 50 per cent of the population surrounding a wind farm is affected rather than 5 per cent.

In summary the Tribunal has been made acutely conscious of the questions but finds itself in a less than satisfactory evidentiary vacuum regarding the answers.

The Tribunal’s response was to adjourn the matter until October this year to allow the parties to bring further evidence on the topic.  The Tribunal was very interested in the proposed study of the impacts of noise from the Waterloo windfarm which has been driving people mad or out of their homes for years now.

The Environment Protection Authority of South Australia is about to embark upon a detailed study of the alleged effects of the wind turbines at the Waterloo wind farm in South Australia on surrounding residents.  We are told that this study will be carried out in April and May of this year.

flyingIt is probable that the study will address the relevant questions.  The Tribunal considers that given the uniformity of expert opinion as to the desirability of further studies of this nature, and having regard to the imminence of the EPA study, the prudent course is to defer a final decision in the matter in anticipation that the results of the study may assist the Tribunal to answer the questions posed above.

The Tribunal also considers that this course is consistent with the precautionary principle as explained by the Supreme Court in Rozen v Macedon Ranges Shire [2010] VSC 583 and recommended by the NHMRC in its publication NEW 0048.

So all eyes will be on Waterloo over the coming months with the long-suffering community there looking to the SA EPA to finally do the right thing and help by getting the wind farm operator Energy Australia to cooperate by turning its turbines on and off during testing and to provide the wind speed and operational data which it has steadfastly refused to provide, until now.

With the Cherry Tree decision VCAT has set up a de facto moratorium on wind farm developments in Victoria.  STT says about bloody time too.

Based on the precautionary principle, unless and until Infigen can satisfy the Tribunal that wind turbine noise does not cause adverse health effects, including sleep disturbance, it will not get approval for its Cherry Tree nightmare.  As we see it, the same goes for any wind farm developer looking to slam 160m 3MW monsters into any populated rural community in Victoria.  And rightly so!

The industry must be quietly spewing, and cursing Infigen under its breath for pushing the envelope with a development that was clearly incompatible with the heavily populated Trawool Valley.  Well, not so quietly perhaps; here’s our old mate Tristan Edis trying to dress up a pile of smouldering cow dung.

oh noDon’t you just love it when the losing side has a dummy spit over the umpires call!

The Tribunal has called timeout and left it to the parties to bring further evidence stating the bleeding obvious: if you stick a bunch of enormous industrial machines in quiet rural environments the noise will drive people mad in their homes or drive them out the door.

As for wind farm developers proving that there are no adverse health effects, like sleep disturbance, caused by giant industrial wind turbines, STT says good luck with that!

This might not be checkmate, but the industry hasn’t got many moves left.  STT thinks that if Infigen makes another wrong move like this, the industry is a gonner.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.


  1. FCWTAG is fighting the proposed complex and it is a real worry when at a community consultation group Jonathon Upson (insigne) said words along the line that it was a go ahead. Now NSW Govt. is pushing the approval or not of several turbine complexes under the old part 3a by sometime in June. People have been lied to and conned with new shed or perhaps a piece of machinery not realising they are signing their farms over to Infigen. “Gag” clauses make people who host scared of litigation so do not speak up. If hey were so wonderful people would accept turbines, they are not better only bigger.Hi to the two ladies from Cherry Tree I met at Macarthur protest with my daughter, grand daughter (henna tattoo) friend and myself.Glad for your hard work.

  2. VESTAS’ CEO seems to be referring to industrial wind plants as ‘Wind parks’ along with the jumping castles, slippery dips and turbine aware swans.

  3. Great work to all involved in Cherry Tree you are champions, leading by example, well done.
    Infigens Bodangora wind factory is another fostering ground for untruths and misleading claims.

  4. It is about time one of the Goverments or a Justice system grew Balls & stood up for the people living around these tall streaks of mysery. It’s HARDIES all over again only with a different name INDUSTRIAL TURBINES.

  5. Andreas Marciniak says:

    “As for wind farm developers proving that there are no adverse health effects, like sleep disturbance, caused by giant industrial wind turbines”,
    Lets wait and see what other Lies they will come up with !

    “This might not be checkmate, but the industry hasn’t got many moves left”.
    cant wait to see them wiggle there way out of this, more lies ?from the Snakes.
    ” the industry is a goner”, lets hope.

  6. Gobsmacked! Well done you’ll. You have established a precedent for the rest of us. No mean feat. The Gullen Range Wind Farm, currently under development, has at least 60 homes within close proximity to the turbines. We understand that noise easements have been sought from several land owners to allow taller and noisier turbines to be erected. Fools if they sign, both for themselves and their neighbours’ comfort. We are all waiting for hell to arrive.

  7. Jackie Rovensky says:

    Tristan Edis is a writer of fiction; he takes a subject and imposes his own interpretation on it, leaving out anything which could detract from his stories theme. I wonder if he uses a pseudonym to write ‘based on a true story’ scripts for American TV and Film industries.
    It’s a pity other states EPA’s have not taken up the challenge and organised the same testing regime being undertaken in SA in places in their states where people have reported adverse health effects.
    Imagine the ‘rush of wind’ as energy companies go back to the drawing board to see where they could place their torture machines away from rural residential areas, or leave the country because it’s become too hard to ‘steel a buck here’ and/or ‘pull the wool over our eyes’.
    Great news for Cherry Tree and a wonderful job done, working together for a just and worthy cause may take time but you can get there in the end.


  1. […] might think 50 MW isn’t much, but Infigen went to war in VCAT over its plan to install 48 MW of unreliable and intermittent wind power on the Cherry Tree Range […]

  2. […] own Tim Brew.  One of the mighty Trawool Valley Whiteheads Creek Landscape Guardians that gave Infigen a towelling back in March, Tim is going to ride the 700km from Trawool, the place that’s “got it all” to […]

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