‘Noise’ Change Steals Protection

December, 2020

By Sarah Hawker, Letter published in Weekly Times.

Victoria’s Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 defines a nuisance as being “liable to be dangerous to health or offensive”.

The Andrew’s Government is introducing an amendment to the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008. The purpose of the Bill is “to exclude noise or emissions from wind turbines at wind energy facilities”.

Wind turbine noise emissions are the only type of nuisance to be excluded from the Act. Anthony Carbines, member for Ivanhoe, in support of the amendments to the Bill stated “the amendments that we bring forward today really go to further expand the opportunities for wind farm investment in Victoria but also give certainty to that industry”.

And with the stroke of a pen, an important legal protection for those adversely impacted by the poor planning decisions is extinguished.

If there are no issues with noise or emissions from wind farms, why is there an urgent need to exclude them from the Public Health and Wellbeing Act? The reason may be found in the recent Supreme Court of Victoria decision that upheld Council’s resolution that the Bald Hills wind farm had caused a statutory nuisance under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act, validating the adjoining landowners’ complaints. Mr (Richard) Riordan, Member for Polwarth, when speaking against the Amendment summarised the reasons for the situation clearly.

“What was most distressing was this government’s rush to do a favour for big overseas foreign-owned wind companies, its rush to keep them happy, because the minute they get bought to court by what they would describe as an ‘unsophisticated population’, and those are the words used by the government, the minute they get to court they win, this government moves in this house as quick as lightning to change the rules so it cannot happen again. That is not a favour for the people of Victoria. That is a favour for big wind. That is a favour for overseas companies. That is a favour for investors and developers who want to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayers money on projects and not be held up. This same free kick is not given to any other sector in the community”.

This is exacerbated by the fact permit conditions in relation to noise predictions at the Stockyard Hill Wind Farm have not been enforced. Noise predictions undertaken by Goldwind are based on hypothetical turbines, not the actual turbines we see around us.

The council, as the body responsible for enforcing the permit is missing in action. Why are foreign companies not required to adhere to permit conditions? Now is the time to make your voice heard.

Sarah Hawker.

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