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Crookwell Wind Turbine Debacle – No presence of CASA

At a meeting in Crookwell on Monday 8th September 2014, there were serious objections raised to the Wind Turbines that had been built by the Gullen Range Wind Farm, which demonstrate the degree to which the constructor [and operator] have “thumbed their noses” at the actual approval.

Sixty-nine turbines were not placed in the correct position, of the 73 turbines constructed.

One would guess that the approval has been breached, which is supported by the local member, Katrina Hodkinson, saying there appears to be a comtempt of Court by the constructor.

The local airport is enfringed by the constructed wind turbines, but CASA did not send a representative to see if there was support it could give to local aviation people. It is believed that CASA’s non-support is in breach of the Civil Aviation Act s9A

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Gullen Range wind farm modification bid

ONE of the 76 submissions from the public lodged with the Commission investigating the Gullen Range wind firm’s application to modify its approvals has described the application as “a hopeless mess.”

A large crowd attended the public meeting held at the Crookwell Services Club last Friday hearing submissions for the modification application to the Planning Assessment Commision

A large crowd attended the public meeting held at the Crookwell Services Club last Friday hearing submissions for the modification application to the Planning Assessment Commision

The Bannister resident, Mr. Charlie Barber, complained that it had taken the Department of Planning more than a year to react and investigate the claims that 69 of the 73 turbines had been moved from the originally approved positions.

And Member for Burrinjuck Katrina Hodgkinson was outspoken in her condemnation of the developers “who should be held to be in contempt of court.”

The Commission (Mr. Garry Payne AM in the chair, with Mr. Richard Thorp) sat at the Crookwell Services Club on Friday before a crowd of around 100 people.

The Gullen Range wind farm, now virtually complete,  is located within rural lands containing scattered residences and buildings, plus lifestyle holdings.

At the time of the original Environmental Assessment for the GRWF, there were:

32 non-associated residences within 1.5km of the nearest turbine, and

86 non-associated residences more than 1.5km and less than 3km from the nearest turbine.

There is now understood to be 118 non-host residents.

To date:

9 turbines have moved greater than 100m from the approved location,

13 turbines have moved between 50m–100m from the approved location, and

47 turbines have moved less than 50m from the approved location.

The remaining four turbines have been built in their approved location.

The greatest distance that a wind turbine has moved is 187m for wind turbine BAN_08.

The highest increase in elevation is 14.8m for wind turbine BAN_08.

Of the 76 public submissions to the commission there were 67 unique submitters with 42 (63%) objecting to the

project, 10 (15%) supporting the project and 15 (22%) not objecting but raising concerns

regarding visual impacts, noise impacts, loss of amenity, property devaluation, health and safety, proximity of turbines to residences, appropriate mitigation and compensation and a request for a public inquiry.

The Commission is considering the department’s recommendation that in one instance (a lifestyle holding) the owners should be provided the opportunity to be acquired by the wind farm, or ask that the turbines be relocated to their original site.

Another turbine is recommended to be removed to its original site.

A review by the Department’s own noise expert and an independent expert concluded that the relocation of the turbines will result in insignificant change in the turbine noise.

The Department has concluded that subject to conditions the modifications can be supported.

Conditions included landscaping to ensure visual impacts of the substation be minimised, that the Compensatory Habitat Package be revised and the offset area increased to account for biodiversity loss, and that the approval be updated to reflect current practice with respect to noise, tonality, decommissioning and community consultation aspects.

Mr Barber said he believed the turbines that have been placed closer to his back boundary have an overwhelming presence and are overpowering their lives.

“We have had our property on the market for some time now and I describe the turbines to be real ‘deal breakers’ – every prospective buyer has been turned away by the presence of this wind farm.”

“Potential purchasers have a choice but we now don’t,” said Mr Barber.

​ Mr Barber’s comments reflected the views of many of those who spoke during the long session which ran from 9.30 in the morning until 4pm in the afternoon.​

It is reported there is angst between host neighbours and neighbours that are non-hosts of the turbines making people less confident and having a loss of social outings.

Minister for Burrinjuck, Katrina Hodgkinson addressed the meeting saying she has over three feet high of  correspondence from opposition to the wind farm and said, “In my opinion I believe the application for modification should not be approved and also note that GRWF are in direct defiance to the ruling by the Land and Environment Court.

“This wind farm has created a considerable amount of angst in the area between neighbours and I am extremely concerned.

“The proponent should be held in contempt of Court,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

Mr Charlie Prell said, “There should be a better consultation with the community from the proponent.”

The GRWF has been built along the ridge running North – South from Crookwell to Pomeroy and there has been 11 turbines omitted from the North of the wind farm because of the close proximity to the Crookwell Aerodrome.

In Mr Jim Hudson’s submission he writes  that the Crookwell Aerodrome will no longer be considered for use for aerial firefighting by the NSW Rural Fire Service.  The aircraft used in this role is an 802 Fire Bomber.

There is also a twin engine support aircraft in addition to the 802 and they are four Category B aircraft.

He added, the Crookwell aerodrome is therefore exclude from consideration and any necessary fire fighting efforts must be originated from Bathurst, Cowra or Goulburn.

The Crookwell Aerodromes importance and significance was such that at the time the then Mayor, Brian McGuiness and Deputy Mayor James Carr, when determining the legally authorised purchase and establishment of the facility enacted the condition that it be held in perpetuity for the residents and landowners of the Crookwell district.

The aerodrome cannot be sold or therefore closed. This decision precedes the development of the wind farm and such decision cannot be altered.” Mr Hudson contended.

Many large developers around NSW are watching for the outcome of this inquiry as the decision by the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) will set a benchmark for many more modification applications for the future by companies, setting a standard by this case.

Mr Garry Payne, chairperson for The Government Commission  ended the meeting by saying “We (PAC) take this position very seriously and our decision even more seriously.

“It will be some time before their determination and decision is made,” Mr Payne concluded.