Thursday, 4 April 2013

Weatherill pushes wind farms ahead of health study
21 Mar 2013

A MAJOR international study into the effects of wind turbines on health has been pre-empted by South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill, who wants a rapid increase in the number of large-scale wind farms. The Premier yesterday suspended standing orders in parliament to force a debate on his motion to help foster an increase in the development and construction of wind farms across the state. He claimed there were only economic and environmental benefits to be gained, and no evidence wind farms have a negative impact on property values or health.

"The fact is that there is no evidence that indicates that wind farms have a negative impact on the value of property; in fact, some towns located near wind farms are experiencing booms instead of sales droughts", Mr Weatherill told parliament. "I do not deny for a moment that there are some people who have genuine concerns about wind turbines appearing in their backyard, especially if their neighbour is getting a financial gain from it and they are getting no gain. "I do not deny that there are people concerned about the potential health effects, notwithstanding the absence of scientific evidence to support their concerns".

In a judgment last month, a federal magistrate accepted that wind farms slashed the value of surrounding properties, ruling falls of up to 33% in value were likely and it was "hard to imagine" any prospective buyer ignoring such development. wind farm developers and the renewables industry have insisted land values are not affected by wind farms. Next month, in the face of mounting international evidence and continued industry denials, SA's Environmental Protection Authority will begin a study that will continuously measure the lowest frequency noises from the Waterloo wind farm in the state's mid-north. EnergyAustralia will co-operate by turning its 37 wind turbines on and off so there can be no dispute about background noise.

As reported by The Australian last month, the new testing is considered to be a critical development in a long-running dispute over wind turbines that has split rural communities and frustrated an industry that sees itself as critical to Australia's clean energy future. A literature review on health impacts also is due to be released by the National Health and Medical Research Council for public consultation in the second half of the year. But Mr Weatherill said there were 19 wind farm projects within the state that were committed or listed or publicly announced, and there should be more, despite the mounting complaints and concerns.

"It is clear that wind farm developments increase prosperity while reducing carbon pollution, they boost employment, they boost investment, they encourage innovation and technological development and they will deliver a clean energy legacy", he said.

Liberal opposition energy spokesman Martin Hamilton-Smith accused the Premier of a political stunt and said genuine community concerns should be respected. "This government feels otherwise. They know best; announce and defend, get out there and tell people what is best for them. We do not agree", he said. "There is a visual impact, there are impacts, there are concerns, and they need to be explored".

Last week a study by Simon Chapman, professor of public health at Sydney University, was released that found the supposed "wind turbine sickness" appeared to be caused by the power of suggestion, and was far more prevalent in communities where anti-wind farm lobbyists had been active.