Wind Turbine Host, “Tells All” at Australian Government Inquiry! Brilliant!

Farmer Knocks Back ‘Offers’ of $100,000 a Year to Host Turbines & Tells Senate: “These Things Shouldn’t Be In Anyone’s Backyard”

senate review

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Remember all those glowing stories about wind power outfits being welcomed into rural communities with open arms? You know, tales about how farmers are dying to have turbines lined up all over their properties? How locals can’t wait to pick up some of the thousands of permanent,high paying jobs on offer? How developers are viewed with the kind of reverence reserved for Royalty?

No?

We’ve forgotten them too.

The wind industry routinely trots out 4 or 5 year old community surveys (where the respondents don’t and will never live within driving distance from these things) that purport to show the ‘love’. But, when the question is put fair and square to people that know they’ll end up as wind industry “road-kill”, the results tend to come out a little differently:

1,000 Sign Petition Against Mt Emerald Wind Farm: Survey says 92% Opposed

After years of being lied to, bullied, berated and treated like fools (at best) and “road-kill” (at worst), for most, the ‘gloss’ comprising wind industry PR efforts to ‘win hearts and minds’ has well and truly worn off.

These days, the communities aren’t so gullible; they aren’t so welcoming; and they aren’t willing to take it lying down. Despite having the skills of the best spin doctors in the business at its disposal, it’s “outrage” that’s become the word synonymous with the wind industry, wherever it goes. In short, rural communities have had enough – and they’re fighting back, by fair means and foul:

Angry Wind Farm Victims Pull the Trigger: Turbines Shot-Up in Montana and Victoria

These days, the PR outfits that are paid a packet to ‘shape the debate’ – like the Clean Energy Council and the Australian Wind Alliance – are probably just stealing from their wind industry clients.

Most of their recent efforts are just plain silly, and plenty seem to backfire. The case of Hamish and Anna Officer from Macarthur is only just the latest example. The industry’s case on wind turbine noise sleep and health; corporate social responsibility and relations with its contracted hosts has taken a hammering in the last few months:

SA Farmers Paid $1 Million to Host 19 Turbines Tell Senate they “Would Never Do it Again” due to “Unbearable” Sleep-Destroying Noise

Unwilling Turbine Hosts Tell Senate: Australia’s Most Notorious Wind Power Outfit – Infigen – a Team of Bullies, Liars & Thugs

In an effort to hose down the utterly damning evidence given to the Senate Inquiry by Clive and Trina Gare, and the group of unwilling turbine hosts from Flyers Creek in NSW, who have been repeatedly bullied and threatened by near-bankrupt Infigen, the wind industry’s spruikers trotted out the Officers to parrot from a well-oiled script about how much they love living cheek-by-jowl with the 48 Vestas V112s they host on their property at Macarthur in western Victoria. The Officers telling the SMH that they “live a good deal closer to wind turbines than most people” and simply love the look of the things; and that the noise is as soothing as a well-written symphony (the wind industry’s cooked-up propaganda piece about the Officers is available here).

There’s only one minor problem with the Officer’s story. And that’s the fact that the Officers are spending something in the order of $2million on a dream home 30km away from the public health disaster they helped create. The apparent aim of the Officer’s pricey building program is to leave their current home, and the sweet “music” created by their fleet of “beautiful, majestic, landscape improvers” – it must pain them so, to have to leave them so far behind:

Macarthur Turbine Hosts Destroy Community & Bolt as Hammering the Wind Industry becomes the “New Black”

When people with real honour and integrity – like the Gares – tell the story of their self-inflected misery, there’s a ring of honesty that gels with country people. Not so, with hypocrites that run in lockstep with the wind industry; and who seem happy to pocket the loot and leave their neighbours for dead. Which brings to mind the ol’ chestnut that you can fool some of the people, some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people, all the time.

Now, back to the evidence before the Senate Inquiry. David Brooks, Dr Michael Crawford and Mark Tomlinson gave a very solid wrap up on the institutional corruption that pervades State Planning departments and the Clean Energy Regulator. But we think the stand-out testimony was that given by Michael Lyons – a farmer from Bodangora in NSW – who was repeatedly offered a deal to host 10 turbines on his property in exchange for over $100,000 a year.  STT thinks Michael’s response as to why he knocked back that kind of money says it all really:

Mr Lyons: The first time I knocked it back, I did not know anything about them, to be quite honest. The proponent was quite insistent that I host turbines, but I said no. I said, ‘I am going to find out a little bit more about them first before I say yes or no.’ At that stage I was pretty open minded. Another contact of mine had done a lot more research into them and through that person I then formed the opinion that these things were not something that should be inflicted on anybody. Call me a nimby if you like but I do not think that these things should be in anyone’s backyard, let alone mine.

Here’s the rest of their evidence.

Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines – 29 May 2015

BROOKS, Mr David, Chairman, Parkesbourne/Mummel Landscape Guardians Inc.

CRAWFORD, Dr Michael Arthur, Private capacity

LYONS, Mr Michael David, Coordinator, Bodangora Wind Turbine Awareness Group

TOMLINSON, Mr Mark, Member, Residents against Jupiter Wind Turbines Noise Committee

CHAIR: Welcome. Could you please confirm that information on parliamentary privilege and the protection of witnesses and evidence has been provided to you?

Dr Crawford: Yes, it has.

Mr Brooks: Yes.

Mr Tomlinson: Yes.

Mr Lyons: Yes.

CHAIR: Thank you. The committee has your submissions and I now invite you to make a brief opening statement and at the conclusion of your remarks, I will invite members of the committee to put questions to you.

Dr Crawford: Thank you for the invitation to appear here today. I am speaking as a private individual, though I am also a board member of the Waubra Foundation and a member of the local group, Residents against Jupiter Wind Turbines. Members of that group have had extensive dealings with the New South Wales planning department as well as other New South Wales agencies in relation to Jupiter and other wind farms. While I am critical of the way the system currently operates, I acknowledge that the current New South Wales Minister for Planning, Rob Stokes, and his predecessor Pru Goward, as well as the secretary of the department, appear to be trying to improve the process. But institutional inertia is powerful and the changes are slow, meanwhile innocent people are being badly harmed and that will continue under current arrangements.

I have worked for more than 30 years as a management consultant to private and public sector organisations, normally advising the CEO and other senior executives on matters of corporate strategy and organisation design. While my first degree was in physics and maths, my PhD relates specifically to organisation design and my subsequent research was in corporate change. I also taught on executive programs at the Australian Graduate School of Management. That is by way of background.

It is clear to me that the current processes for approving and regulating wind farms in New South Wales are excessively complex and neither economically efficient nor socially just. They are essentially a tick-the-box planning exercise with little integrity, conducted at large public and private expense, to produce an outcome favourable to developers. As you have already discovered, conditions imposed by wind farm approvals are quite deficient and, unlike some industries such as coalmining in New South Wales, compliance testing and enforcement is virtually non-existent. Without effective compliance and enforcement in any field, conditions will be regularly breached.

It is possible to add some integrity to the current approvals system in various ways such as relying only on data provided by parties with no association with the proponent, not accepting judgements made by consultants hired by the developer to support their case and imposing decommissioning funding conditions guaranteed to not leave the taxpayer or the local community on the hook.

Alternatively, it is possible to remove most of the inefficiency, subjectivity and injustice by replacing the current regulatory process by a standards-based one that forces developers to absorb externalities through fair commercial transactions and imposes genuinely rigorous ongoing noise monitoring with material costs for breaches. Such an approach would be far more transparent and much less exposed to the risks of corruption than the current process. Our local group provided the previous New South Wales planning minister with advice on how that could be done but have heard nothing further. Hopefully this committee will have more success. Thank you.

Mr Tomlinson: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak here today. Residents against Jupiter Wind Turbines is a community group established in the Tarago area of New South Wales opposing the proposed Jupiter wind farm. A subcommittee was formed, now known as the noise committee, and members of this committee are tasked with investigating various aspects of wind turbine noise. Some of these areas are noise propagation and the effects of topography and geographical spread, the relationship between multiple turbines and wind shear relating to international standards—just to mention a few.

My role as a member of the noise committee is to investigate the background noise monitoring process as outlined in the various wind farm guidelines used in New South Wales. This role involves monitoring equipment set-up, data collection, data analysis and preliminary findings reports. This has also led into the investigation into wind turbine infrasound. The committee purchased industry standard class 1 noise monitoring equipment and use the current New South Wales draft wind farm guidelines and the 2003 South Australia wind farm guidelines as guiding documents, as used by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure.

In January 2015, we commenced a monitoring program to ascertain the ambient environmental background noise at six properties around the proposed wind farm. We have currently completed five and, as a result, have discovered numerous deficiencies within the guidelines used for wind farm approvals. The major deficiencies include removal of extraneous noise; wind over microphone; position of monitoring equipment; checks and balances as to the accuracy of noise monitoring reports submitted by developer-paid acousticians; ongoing compliance monitoring; and others listed in our submission.

In our monitoring program, we employed a Svantek 977 class 1 noise data logger, a wind data logger positioned at microphone height, a wind data logger on a portable 10-metre tower and a TASCAM DR-40 digital sound recorder to achieve full 24/7 sound recordings for the purpose of extraneous noise removal. We have also purchased three microbarometers, which are capable of recording infrasound levels from 0.05 hertz to 20 hertz, with which we have recorded wind turbine infrasound out to 14 kilometres.

I must stress at this point that we are not acousticians and we do not purport to be such; we are simply a community group putting forward our views and observations after conducting background noise monitoring, according to the relevant wind farm guidelines used in New South Wales. We believe the current wind farm guidelines are in no way adequate and must be amended as a matter of urgency. Thank you.

Mr Lyons: In the interests of time, I think you will find you already have a copy of my opening address. I am quite happy to pass on making opening remarks, so that we can get on with more questions.

Mr Brooks: Before I begin my presentation, I would like to thank you for all the work that you have done on the issues of this inquiry, especially for your interim report. If all its recommendations are implemented then there will be some hope that wind farm neighbours will find some relief at last. Today, I will limit myself to three topics that concern planning and regulation. I will deal with each topic briefly and then draw some conclusions from them, taken together. For evidence in detail for what I shall say, I must refer you to my submissions.

Topic No. 1: first, I wish to summarise the situation relating to the unauthorised turbine relocations of the Gullen Range wind farm because this matter illustrates the unreliability, incompetence, negligence and impropriety of the planning and assessment of wind farms in New South Wales. I realise that you cannot directly affect state planning issues, but it is important that you should be aware of them if you are to make recommendations for the federal government’s negotiations with the states through COAG, and for new measures regarding federal agencies. It is not an exaggeration to say that the suffering of wind farm neighbours is almost entirely due to inadequate planning and assessment at state level.

The project approval for the Gullen Range wind farm prohibits the proponent from moving turbines up to 250 metres from their approved positions without seeking permission from the Minister for Planning—that is condition 1.5. Moreover, section 75W(2) of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 of New South Wales insists that modifications that are not ‘consistent with the existing approval require the permission of the Minister for Planning’. The proponent ignored these conditions and built the infrastructure of the wind farm with 69 of the 73 turbine footings in the wrong place without seeking the permission of the minister. This was a clear violation of both the project approval and the EPA Act. Nonetheless the department of planning has allowed the proponent to submit a modification application in order to get retrospective approval for all these violations, and the department has consistently recommended that such retrospective approval be granted by the Planning Assessment Commission.

I cannot go into all the twists and turns by which the department has justified its response to this violation. You may wish to ask questions about that presently. Here, I only wish to point out that a project approval and a clause in a law, which have perfectly clear and intelligible meanings, are being deliberately disregarded by the department and that the department’s only justification for this is sophistry. This makes a mockery of the idea of regulation. That is topic one.

Topic 2, much more briefly: the Gullen Range has been approved under the completely inadequate South Australian noise guidelines 2003. When neighbours have asked for the approval to be reviewed because of the deficiencies of the noise guidelines, they have been told that this cannot happen because the EPA Act allows a developer to sue the minister for compensation if the minister revokes or modifies an approval. The planning law in this way gives certainty to the developer but excludes any possibility of relief to neighbours.

Topic 3: under the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act, the federal act, the Clean Energy Regulator can consider suspending the accreditation of a wind farm if the regulator ‘believes on reasonable grounds that the power station is being operated in contravention of a law of the Commonwealth, a state or a territory’—that is subsection 30E(3). However, the regulator seems to have unlimited discretion to avoid forming a reasonable belief. There is abundant evidence in the public domain that the Gullen Range wind farm is in breach of New South Wales law, but the New South Wales department of planning refuses to say so and the Clean Energy Regulator refuses to consider all the evidence. Moreover, the Clean Energy Regulator has adopted the preposterous position that it can only test whether a wind farm is in breach of law in the present. It cannot, so it thinks, test whether a wind farm has been in breach in the past.

If the New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission gives retrospective approval to all the violations of the project approval of the Gullen Range wind farm, the Clean Energy Regulator will refuse to consider whether the wind farm has been in breach of New South Wales law and the wind farm will keep over a year’s worth of renewable energy certificates, worth somewhere in the region of several million dollars to which, arguably, it is not entitled. Those are the three topics; two quick conclusions.

Firstly, a law or a project approval can be quite clear and unambiguous, yet a government agency will arrogate to itself the discretionary power to disregard the clear meaning of that law or that approval, and to render it meaningless. There is no check or balance to prevent such an abuse of power by that government agency. Both the New South Wales department of planning and the Clean Energy Regulator are guilty of this abuse of power. Secondly, when the law protects the rights and capital of a developer then the law is hard and firm and solid, and will be respected by government agencies. But when a law is likely to make difficulties for a developer, a regulatory agency will use sophistry to disregard the law and to avoid enforcing the law against the developer. This gives the developers a privileged position in the face of the law, offends against the principle of equality before the law and subverts any possibility of serious regulation.

Finally, in view of these facts, there needs to be a royal commission into wind farm development in Australia. Such a commission is necessary if the corrupt nature of planning, assessment and regulation is to be addressed and overcome. Thank you.

Senator DAY: Dr Crawford, I am drawing on your experience with organisation and corporate culture. Can you explain why, in the face of such overwhelming evidence regarding the adverse health effects of wind turbines, there is such a denial, which seems to defy all logic, by so many operators, regulators, commentators and others? It is a phenomenon which really intrigues me. You have got a PhD in this, so please enlighten me.

Dr Crawford: Without actually going to the PhD, I believe that it was Upton Sinclair who said something like, ‘It’s extremely difficult to get someone to understand something when their salary depends on not understanding that.’ Basically, if you look at not just the wind industry but regulatory agencies in this area, and given the commitment of government to introduce renewable energy in this country, everyone’s incentives are actually aligned with pretending there is no problem. To recognise a problem would put people in the situation where they then have to overtly recognise to themselves that they are behaving in a way which certainly some people would describe as evil—they are inflicting harm on others simply for their personal benefit in terms of ongoing salary and other acceptances.

Senator DAY: Thank you.

Senator LEYONHJELM: I have a question for Mr Lyons. You are part of the group opposed to the Bodangora wind energy facility in central New South Wales. I understand it will have 33 turbines. Can you tell us what is the level of opposition locally to that facility?

Mr Lyons: The community opposition was overwhelming—and still is. I think it has probably grown because people have got themselves a lot more educated as to the negative impacts of wind farms. When we did the submissions to the department of planning and infrastructure, it worked out, I think, that it was 94, 96 per cent opposed within the community. Of those that were not opposed, there were 163 total submissions. I think it was 152 opposed and, of the remainder, I think there were a mixture of government agencies, of which most of them had issues—still unresolved to this day. Of the individual ones, they were from host farms, host families. There were two anonymous and, of those two anonymous, one came from a distance of 50 kilometres outside the project area.

Senator LEYONHJELM: The facility has not been built yet—is that right?

Mr Lyons: That is correct.

Senator LEYONHJELM: When will it be built?

Mr Lyons: As soon as they get finance, and they cannot get finance until they get a power purchase agreement.

Senator LEYONHJELM: They have been waiting for the RET agreement, presumably.

Mr Lyons: That is correct.

Senator LEYONHJELM: How many host properties are there?

Mr Lyons: I am going on memory. This submission went into the department of planning a couple of years ago. I may be a couple out, but I think there were eight host families.

Senator LEYONHJELM: What is their view of it? Have you had any contact with them?

Mr Lyons: I have had very limited contact because a lot of them are my neighbours. I am the largest single non-host neighbour on the southern side of the project area.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Were you offered the opportunity to become a host?

Mr Lyons: Several times.

Senator LEYONHJELM: And you knocked it back?

Mr Lyons: Correct, yes.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Why was that?

Mr Lyons: The first time I knocked it back, I did not know anything about them, to be quite honest. The proponent was quite insistent that I host turbines, but I said no. I said, ‘I am going to find out a little bit more about them first before I say yes or no.’ At that stage I was pretty open minded. Another contact of mine had done a lot more research into them and through that person I then formed the opinion that these things were not something that should be inflicted on anybody. Call me a nimby if you like but I do not think that these things should be in anyone’s backyard, let alone mine.

Senator LEYONHJELM: How much money do you think you turned down?

Mr Lyons: We are talking tens of thousands here. The situation is that Mount Bodangora, which is the name of the property, is the highest point across Australia on the latitude that it sits so it is reasonably high up, it is fairly well exposed to wind and there are quite a few ridges around. I think I could probably put up 10 turbines at least without any worries.

Senator LEYONHJELM: On the basis of $10,000 a year?

Mr Lyons: The contract, which you would have a copy of, is an original contract that I have. It is not something that we made up; it was actually handed to me by a potential host farmer, who eventually knocked the whole project back as well. I understand, from memory, that it was $11,000 for the first turbine and $10,000 per turbine per year after that.

Senator LEYONHJELM: So you are not the only local who knocked back hosting turbines?

Mr Lyons: That is a good question. I would have to get back you on to that.

Senator LEYONHJELM: I thought you said you got a copy of the contract from somebody who knocked it back?

Mr Lyons: Yes, you are quite right. There were several others. I was just trying to think how many, not whether I was the only one.

Senator LEYONHJELM: So was there more than one?

Mr Lyons: There was certainly more than one.

Senator LEYONHJELM: The department of planning and infrastructure, I gather, has told you that they do not have the resources to adequately check on this facility. Is that correct? Can you explain what they said?

Mr Lyons: Yes, they verbally told me that over the phone. They certainly were not prepared to put it in writing.

Senator LEYONHJELM: What exactly did they say?

Mr Lyons: Essentially they said that the department did not have either the financial resources or the manpower resources to check on whether or not the proponent had actually completed what they were supposed to do. As long as the proponent had made what looked like a an attempt to fulfil the director-general’s requirements, that was good enough for the department.

Senator LEYONHJELM: We have been unable so far to get the relevant New South Wales authorities to come along and tell us how the process for approving wind farms in New South Wales operates. We do not know whether that is deliberate or not but we hope that we can resolve that before too much longer. In the absence of that information, can you tell us who approves them and then who checks compliance with the planning approvals subsequently?

Mr Brooks: One fact that may be of interest to you in relation to this is my association went to the Land and Environment Court back in 2009. For that purpose, we subpoenaed all the correspondence between the department and the developer—the original developer. We got two volumes of correspondence. It was quite obvious from that correspondence that the department was indeed helping the developer to put the proposal in a form where it could get approval.

For my world—I used to be an academic—it was rather like a supervisor helping a postgraduate to write a thesis; so the supervisor will say you need more of an argument here, you need more evidence for this bit, this bit of you argument needs clarification and so on. The officials in the department of planning were doing that for the developer for months and months. Whether or not the people who then go on to recommend the proposal for approval are the same officials, I cannot tell you—you would have to ask the department of planning. But certainly the department of planning itself would seem to have a conflict of interest because if a supervisor helps a postgraduate to write a thesis, they do not then examine the thesis.

Senator LEYONHJELM: What contribution does the local council have to that process?

Mr Brooks: They can make a submission just like anybody else but they do not have any authoritative power of decision.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Once it is built and operating, what is your understanding of checking compliance with planning conditions?

Mr Brooks: This goes back to the developer, who will use the same noise consultant who did the original noise projections. That noise consultant will put in a report and then that, presumably, will be accepted by the department of planning. I do not think there is any compulsory obligation on the department of planning to do any independent checking.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Does the council have any role at all in verifying compliance?

Mr Brooks: No, because all of this is done at the level of the state government.

Senator URQUHART: Mr Tomlinson, can you tell me about your organisation, the Residents Against Jupiter Wind Turbines Noise Committee. How many members do you have?

Mr Tomlinson: On the noise committee, we have three members. The Residents Against Jupiter community group has in the vicinity of about 140-odd members.

Senator URQUHART: Is this like a subcommittee of that committee?

Mr Tomlinson: This is a subcommittee, yes.

Senator URQUHART: Are you funded at all?

Mr Tomlinson: No, we are not funded. We have had members donate some money to purchase equipment.

Senator URQUHART: Is this the equipment that you talked about earlier?

Mr Tomlinson: That is correct.

Senator URQUHART: What was the cost of all that equipment?

Mr Tomlinson: The cost was around $8,000 for the equipment we have.

Senator URQUHART: You said in your opening statement that you are not acousticians. Is there anybody in there that is qualified to actually run that equipment?

Mr Tomlinson: No, there is not although we have been in contact with some acousticians who have given us some guidance, one of those being Steven Cooper.

Senator URQUHART: Mr Lyons, can I ask you how many members you have in your awareness group?

Mr Lyons: We are a fairly loose-knit organisation, comprising every neighbour surrounding the turbines area. It is probably around about 30.

Senator URQUHART: What would be the area that you are looking at? What would be the radius of it?

Mr Lyons: Of the project area, I think it would be about 28,000 hectares.

Senator URQUHART: Are the 30 people within that area?

Mr Lyons: No, outside of that area. I may stand corrected on the 28,000 but I think that is what hectare area is of the project itself. We are outside that area.

Senator URQUHART: You said you called for submissions and I did not quite understand your numbers there so if I could just go back through them. I think you said you received 163 submissions. What was the process that you went through?

Mr Lyons: The project was put on public display for 60 days.

Senator URQUHART: Whereabouts?

Mr Lyons: It was at the local council. I think it was also online on the department of planning website, I believe, although I got my copy from the council, a digital copy.

Senator URQUHART: Was this the planning project?

Mr Lyons: This was for the Bodangora wind farm. It was on display for 60 days. I think the general public had about six weeks to put submissions in. We put in a submission of over 900 pages detailing what was wrong with the project. Basically, I think, we were totally ignored.

Senator URQUHART: So those 163 submissions went in to the local council?

Mr Lyons: No, this was a state significant development so it went into the department of planning.

Senator URQUHART: That was what I wanted to clear up. As the wind turbine awareness group for the area that you talk about, have you undertaken any research to determine the community attitudes to wind farms?

Mr Lyons: Very much so.

Senator URQUHART: Has it been formal or informal? How have you done that?

Mr Lyons: We held a community meeting which we funded ourselves within Wellington. I think we had about 200 or 250 people show up. We invited different speakers including Ms Sarah Laurie, who spoke here earlier today. We also invited the proponent and several other wind farm companies who were proposing to put wind farms in the Wellington area. Infigen were the only ones that actually showed up, which was the proponent for the Bodangora wind farm.

Senator URQUHART: Was that a question-and-answer type community meeting?

Mr Lyons: Yes, pretty much. Guest speakers would speak for a while and then it was open to questions and answers, a bit like this is today. It was very much overwhelmingly against the proposal. The research that we did as part of our response to the department of planning for our response to the EA was very much against the project. The community just does not want this project.

Senator URQUHART: The 200 to 250 people that came along, how big a radius do those people live in? Are they part of this group of 30 that are part of your awareness group or how was that made up? Do you know?

Mr Lyons: I do not quite get where your group of 30 fits in. Are you talking about that the Bodangora Wind Turbine Awareness Group? Probably about half of us were able to come that particular day.

Senator URQUHART: So the rest of the 200 to 250 people were from within that community?

Mr Lyons: They were from as far away as South Australia really. Dr Laurie came from South Australia. We had a couple of speakers from South Australia because that was where most of the wind farms that we knew of at the time were located, so we wanted to get some information from there. By far the vast majority of people were locals. By local I mean I would say within 30 kilometres probably.

Senator URQUHART: Mr Brooks, your organisation, the landscape guardians, how many members do you have?

Mr Brooks: Back in 2009 when we went to court, we had a maximum membership I think of 173. Since then, and especially since the wind farm has been built, people have got demoralised and so on so our official paid-up membership now is actually somewhere around 20. We are not the only organisation. There is also Crookwell District Landscape Guardians. I believe they have a membership of about 100, which is quite strong. The other thing which is relevant is that even though people do not pay their subscriptions and continue their membership, they still object to the wind farm. The whole community still knows each other. We still see each other.

Senator URQUHART: As part of your group, do you undertake research to determine community attitudes? How do you get your information?

Mr Brooks: We have not done that. We have had meetings. I might cite the Planning Assessment Commission meeting that took place in September last year, which was held in Crookwell in the RSL. About 200 people turned up to that. It was obvious just being in the room that the overwhelming majority were against the wind farm. I have never had any doubt from all our meetings over the years that certainly the overwhelming majority of people who are going to be affected by the wind farm are solidly opposed to it.

Senator URQUHART: Dr Crawford, you indicated at the start that you were also a director—I think that was the right terminology—of the Waubra Foundation and you are also part of the Residents Against Jupiter Wind Turbines Noise. Are you just on the committee or are you part of the larger group?

Dr Crawford: I am certainly part of the larger group. When we had a community meeting, I was elected as chairman. We had a community meeting in February last year with 200 people and that group elected me as chairman to chair that and pass the motions which went to the New South Wales government. I also happen to be a member of the noise committee.

Senator URQUHART: So you wear a few hats?

Dr Crawford: Yes.

Senator URQUHART: Mr Tomlinson, are you a member of other organisations or just the Residents Against Jupiter?

Mr Tomlinson: No, just Residents Against Jupiter.

Senator URQUHART: Mr Lyons, is your only membership of Bodangora Wind Turbine Awareness Group? Are you a member of other groups?

Mr Lyons: No.

Senator URQUHART: And Mr Brooks?

Mr Brooks: I am vice-president of New South Wales Landscape Guardians, which is a sort of umbrella organisation for—I will have to check the number. I cannot remember whether the number of our affiliated associations is eight or whether it has gone down to five, because again you have the problem of people not always renewing their subscriptions. But it is somewhere in that region.

Mr Lyons: I would just like to correct the record with you, Senator. Dr Laurie did not attend the Wellington public meeting; she attended the Planning Assessment Commission meeting in Wellington. She only did a teleconference presentation at the public meeting.

Senator URQUHART: Okay. Thank you.

CHAIR: Mr Brooks, in your previous evidence you mentioned that, in the planning process, the acousticians who were engaged by the proponents were the same acousticians who then later corrected, shall we say, their own work. Have you seen this in any other field in your professional career?

Mr Brooks: I used to teach English literature, so this sort of issue would not have come up except, as I said, in the case of examiners. Usually, you have to have quite a separation of powers between people who are helping the student and people who are doing the examination. In the case of a PhD, for example, the examiners cannot even belong to the same university; they have to be from a different university.

To come back to the noise compliance monitoring business, it is the same company that does the compliance monitoring. For example, in the case of Gullen Range, it was Marshall Day Acoustics. Whether they literally used the same individuals, I have no idea; but it was certainly the same company.

The other thing that is a bit dubious about the compliance monitoring is that it is to be done only at the same residences where the original background noise monitoring was done. In the case of Gullen Range, at the time there were 63 noninvolved residences within two kilometres, and Marshall Day Acoustics chose, I think, 17 at which to do the original background noise monitoring. So the compliance noise monitoring, now that the wind farm is built, is going to be done at those same 17 residences. It will not be done at all 63. It certainly will not be done anywhere outside two kilometres.

The other thing—and I think this is really the crucial point—is that both the original background noise monitoring and the compliance noise monitoring, and any additional noise audits that the Minister for Planning might order, are all going to be done in terms of the noise limits and the conditions of consent which are based on the South Australian noise guidelines. I had the asset manager from the wind farm come to my house. He sat down in my lounge room. He was going through this spiel about how concerned they were, how they wanted to help people and so on, and I said to him quite plainly, ‘Look, you’re not going to do anything you’re not legally obliged to do, are you,’ and he said no. I said, ‘You’re not going to test for infrasound, are you,’ and he said no. I said, ‘You’re not going to test for low-frequency noise, are you,’ and he said no. So we know, even before the compliance noise monitoring happens, that it is going to be inadequate.

CHAIR: Thank you, Mr Brooks.

Senator LEYONHJELM: Dr Crawford, I have a question similar to what Senator Day asked you before. You have done a lot of consulting to business. It occurs to me that if this were any other industry about which accusations were being made, assuming that it felt that those accusations were unfounded, it would want to do everything it could to put them to bed, disprove them—say, ‘We don’t think there’s any credibility to these accusations but let’s do something to stamp them out.’ I cannot think of any other industry that would not take that approach. The wind industry does not take that approach. Have you seen anything similar in any other sector?

Dr Crawford: Sure. All industries want ultimately to be seen to be good citizens. Sometimes they do it by actually being good citizens and sometimes they do it by suppressing any contrary evidence. I think we have seen at least two other examples: the tobacco industry, whose history is essentially the same as this; and the asbestos industry in Australia, where the companies involved tried first to hide the involvement of asbestos in the harm it was causing and then to arrange their assets in such a way that they protected shareholders against those who might have claims on them. We are in a society where directors of companies typically believe that their responsibility is primarily to maximise value for their shareholders. They do that within the bounds of the law. If the law allows them to behave in ways, as it does in this case, that harm other people, then they typically believe that it is their obligation to do so. We have seen that certainly in the tobacco industry and in the asbestos industry in Australia.

Senator LEYONHJELM: I have speculated that one day there may be a class action similar to those that have occurred in the tobacco industry and the asbestos industry in which the wind industry is found liable in tort. Do you anticipate that possibility as well?

Dr Crawford: I certainly think it is likely that a number of parties will eventually go that route. Obviously as the industry grows it brings more people into harm and grows the number of people who will do so. One of the issues, of course, is which of those companies will still be alive when that occurs. Whilst there are some major companies that have probably a long life ahead of them, there are also a number of other companies in the industry that will have passed off their responsibilities to someone else. If there is a claim down the track, they will not be the ones who have to field it.

CHAIR: Thank you all for appearing here to today and for your evidence.

Hansard, 29 May June 2015

Mr Brooks, Dr Crawford, Mr Lyons and Mr Tominson’s evidence is available from the Parliament’s website here.

Lyons

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