Battle for Mount Emerald Reaches Boiling Point

The battle to prevent RATCH from getting planning approval for the disaster it proposes for Mount Emerald has reached fever pitch. With 90% of locals bitterly opposed to the project, common sense would suggest a polite withdrawal by the developer. Instead, however, RATCH has dipped into the standard book of wind industry lies and half-truths (we covered a few of them in this post). Here’s the Cairns Post on a few more of them.

Storm brewing over wind farm in Tableland
Daniel Batemen
The Cairns Post
13 July 2014

bruce

ANGER: Farmer Bruce Watkins with his daughter Krista Watkins at their family farm, Mt Uncle. Bruce and his family have thought about leaving the area, after living in the region for five generations, if wind farm goes ahead.

THERE’S an ill wind blowing across the Tablelands, with rural landholders considering abandoning their multi-million dollar properties if the Mt Emerald Wind Farm gets the go-ahead.

They have accused the developers behind the renewable energy project of deceiving the community by downplaying the scale and impact of the wind farm, which involves the construction of up to 75 turbines – each about three times taller than Cairns Hospital.

Power producer Ratch Australia and property developer Port Bajool’s $380 million dollar project involves up to 75 wind turbines generating up to 225 megawatts of power from a 2400 hectare property aloft Mt Emerald, which is located about halfway between Atherton and Mareeba.

Jenny

ANGER: Farmers Jenny Disley and Jack Krikorian, owners of Walkamin Enterprises have had their 106 acre property on the market for 4 years and despite it be listed at below market value they can’t sell it, blaming the uncertainty of the proposed wind farm at Mt Emerald.

Each tower is to stand about 80-90m tall, with approximately 50m long blades.

The proponents claim the project will potentially generate enough electricity to power 75,000 homes each year. The two-year construction phase of the project will also create an estimated 158 jobs, with up to 45 people to be employed locally once it is complete.

Since the development application for the wind farm was brought to the Tablelands Regional Council in 2010, a storm of protest about the project has been stirred up within the close-knit Walkamin and Tolga farming community.

When the Tablelands Wind Turbine Action Group conducted a recent survey of those living within 5km of the proposed project site, it found about 90 per cent of residents opposed the development.

The group says locals are terrified of health and noise impacts from the turbines; they are concerned about the impact the construction phase could have upon native habitat; they fear their property values will be driven right down; and they have even questioned the spacing and efficiency of the turbines.

Jenny Disley and her partner Jack Krikorian live 1800m away from the project site, where they will have a clear view of the giant bladed towers from their back porch.

The couple have struggled to sell their sprawling 42.9ha property, which has been on the market for three years through multiple real estate agents, with a current price tag of about $5 million.

“We’ve had a bit of interest but no one will buy,’’ Ms Disley told the Cairns Post. “They keep telling us the reason for that is because of the Mt Emerald wind farm uncertainty.”

The pair operate rural workers accommodation business Walkamin Enterprises, providing labour to the thriving local agricultural industry.

Mr Krikorian is most concerned about the impact noise generated by the turbines may have on up to 40 workers staying in various cabins and homes on their property.

“If the noise impacts on those 40 people, that’s the end of our business,’’ he said.

poster

ANGER: An anti-wind turbine poster nailed in a tree in Walkamin in North Queensland.

“We are in the middle of an extremely active horticultural area, particularly for bananas, and all of those people need our service continuously.

“How do we get compensated, if everything that we work for is impacted?”

Ms Disley said if they were unable to be compensated for any land devaluation, and unable to sell, they would be left with no other choice but to abandon their land, becoming “wind farm refugees”.

“You can’t sell,’’ she said.

“You’ve sunk your whole life savings back into the property. If you can’t access your superannuation through a sale, you can’t live there because of the noise and infra (low frequency) sound.”

Ratch Australia thoroughly refutes any accusations the farm will generate noise pollution. It says any sound generated by the turbines will be less than that heard on a typical quiet suburban street (a level of 40 decibels).

The company and Port Bajool picked Mt Emerald for its “excellent” wind source, its proximity to the electricity grid, and potential for only “minimal” environmental and social impact.

At 4.5km away from Mt Emerald, one of the oldest families of the area, the Watkins family, believes that while the project may be a good idea, but it is being planned for the wrong spot.

Mt Uncle farmer and distillery owner Bruce Watkins says wind farms should be neither seen nor heard.

“If you see these things, you’re too close to them,’’ he said. “That’s the fact.”

“I’m not against green energy. None of us in (the action) group are – we’re all after sustainable, healthy, green energy. I’m putting solar panels up (on the distillery roof) now.”

“But where these so-called environmentalists go wrong, is they say we must have green energy, but they forget the (real) cost.”

The family has a berry farm within 1.5km of the wind farm site, employing more than 200 people. Mr Watkins said the construction phase of the development could create widespread problems for transport, and therefore businesses, across the region.

“There is a massive migration of the equipment to come up (to the Tablelands),’’ he said.

“You’ve got to appreciate they’ve got the right to commandeer main roads, traffic, everything. The delays in the traffic will be staggering.

“I’m not going to overemphasise it, but the fact is they’re going to get these things on the road, which are 80-tonne things, and they’re going to have to resurface the roads.

“At whose expense? We don’t know.”

When Bruce’s daughter Krista and her husband got married five years ago, they had been planning on building a dream house on the family’s land 2km from Mt Emerald.

The mountain even provided a backdrop in the couple’s wedding photos.

“We would have liked to have started to build a home there this year,’’ Krista said.

“But there is no way I’m going to spend $500,000 building an average home when the fact is I could be looking at a depreciated value of more than 50 per cent because of the wind turbines.”

About four years ago, the couple convinced friends to purchase property at the nearby Rangeview Estate.

Krista said it was a mistake that cost them a good relationship with their friends.

“It was the day they signed their contract, they bumped into some locals who were displaying Ratch’s own documents about the wind farm at the Tolga markets,’’ she said.

“The friends, furious, came back to us and said ‘you didn’t tell us about this’, and we saw (the development application) for the first time. We had no idea. (The developers) told us – many of us – it was just a few wind turbines. Way over the back. That was just a blatant lie, because they’re going to be all over that mountain.”

Last month, the development application was called in by the Deputy Premier and Minister for State Development, Infrastructure and Planning Jeff Seeney.

The minister, at the time, said given the complexity of the proposed development, independent assessments would be carried out to evaluate the true economic, environmental and community impacts and benefits of the project.

The development could be approved later this year, with construction to commence in early 2015.

Ratch Australia executive general manager, business development, Geoff Dutton, said the company had been as open and transparent as possible with the community, maintaining solid communication lines about the project since it was first tabled with the Tablelands Regional Council.

He assured locals would not be disturbed by the turbines, once they were operational.

“We have tried to analyse every aspect of noise and where it will go,’’ he said.

“We look at the individual wind turbine manufacturers and their offerings to us, and go through, with them, very detailed specifications.

“Wind towers aren’t just built, they’re built with a view to being within regulations.”

He conceded there would be “some queues” for traffic during the construction phase, as the turbines and their blades were being transported up to the mountain.

“We won’t be going up from Cairns through Mareeba – the more direct route – that is not practical because there are a few sharp bends that no blade will ever go around,’’ he said.

“The better way is to go the long way round further south and then come back around from the Ravenshoe direction up towards the site.”
The Cairns Post

One of the crackers tossed up by RATCH is that the noise generated by its turbines will be the same as a ‘typical quiet suburban street’. Depending on the suburb, most traffic noise dies down well before midnight and rarely resumes much before 6am. Leaving suburbanites a fair opportunity to catch a few zzzs during the hours of darkness.

Giant fans, on the other hand, operate whenever the wind blows – which usually means late evening/early morning and for some strange reason their noise has a habit of annoying neighbours, preventing them from sleeping and otherwise impacting on their good health. For the uninitiated, the sound tracks to these 2 videos might yield a clue.

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Leave Mount Emerald to the eagles.

Let’s leave Mount Emerald to the eagles.

About stopthesethings

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

Comments

  1. stand against wind says:

    Cairns Post journalist Daniel Bateman deserves to be in the Stop These Things “Hall of Fame” – he has shown he has the brains and the guts to report on the Mount Emerald issue. Daniel Bateman gets it.

  2. Jackie Rovenksy says:

    “Wind towers aren’t just built, they’re built with a view to being within regulations.”
    The truth of the matter is that the regulations are wrong – no matter which country they are created in.
    RATCH also says “We have tried to analyse every aspect of noise and where it will go,’’ he said. Yet none of the regulations for noise standard take into account Low Frequency and Infrasound and none require testing within homes.
    If they have “analysed every aspect of noise and where it will go”, can they provide independently acquired proof of this claim? If not they are not telling the truth.
    “We look at the individual wind turbine manufacturers and their offerings to us…”, so they buy ‘off the shelf’, and as we know there is no turbine yet that has been built to a standard that does not emit any noise or vibration, and none of the sizes of these industrial sort can be claimed to be benign when in situ and working.
    So many claims and so much evidence to prove them wrong, RATCH seems to be operating as if people in Queensland are on a separate planet from the rest of Australia, and know nothing of what has been going on outside of their borders. The stories they tell, the lies they spruik are the same as everywhere else this industry has infested.

  3. Terry Conn says:

    Every observation made by Jim Hutson on yesterday’s post, 19/7/2014, is true for the people of Mount Emerald — Jim has foretold their fate, the proof of which is evidenced in the communities in the vicinity of every wind farm ever built everywhere on our planet. When will this insanity end? And when will the lies propagated by ‘rent seeking’ wind farm developers be actually acknowledged by planning authorities? What action will it take to stop this madness? And will the citizens of Mount Emerald be the first to work it out? If nothing else they have to fight every way possible — go for it troops, you have a lot more friends than you think.

  4. Martin Hayles says:

    Nothing more than weasel words and lies from Ratch executive general manager Geoff Dutton. “Open and transparent as possible” – What does that mean? If they had done, as described, then they would have explained to the potential victims issues around noise, infrasound and detrimental health issues, decreased land values, destruction of community, change of ownership, and therefore, who you are listening to now WILL NOT be there in the future to decommission turbines.

    The proponents, if “open and transparent” would explain to the community how the RET works and if it were not for huge subsidies through Renewable Energy Certificates(RECs), the wind industry would not exist.

    Geoff Dutton, the honest person that he would have you believe, would certainly explain to you that greenhouse gas emissions are not abated by the use of wind turbines due to the need for ‘spinning reserve’ backup, which can only be acquired by the use of baseload power generators, coal and gas.

    Geoff Dutton says that “wind towers aren’t just built, they’re built to be within regulations”. Absolute bull Dutton. You are completely disingenuous. Wind turbines are “just built” and then you scammer convince planning departments, through influencing their political masters, to make the planning rules suit your agenda. It should be the other way around.

    Geoff Dutton, you and the same despicable worms at Suzlon/RePower/Senvion have much to answer for, and your arrogance has awoken the sleeping giant of integrity, honesty and vengeance.

    Sleep lightly.

Trackbacks

  1. […] The battle to prevent RATCH from getting planning approval for the disaster it proposes for Mount Emerald has reached fever pitch (see our post here). […]

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