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Local Residents Back Wind Farms

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AGL Community Engagement Manager Amanda Shaw, property owner Judy Schafferius, from Boyneside, and AGL Project Manager Evan Carless

January 17, 2013

A majority of local residents surveyed in a recent telephone poll support future wind farms in the South Burnett / Dalby area.

According to the polling, commissioned by energy company AGL, 45 per cent “support” and 21 per cent “strongly support” future wind farms in the region.

AGL wants to build a massive wind farm development at Coopers Gap, between Kingaroy and Dalby.

The polling revealed that while a majority of local residents support the project, 39 per cent believe it could have an adverse affect on property values. And 25 per cent of residents polled who live within 15km of the project site oppose the development.

The Coopers Gap proposal has sparked loud debates between supporters, including landholders who will host the turbine towers and earn revenue, and other local residents who have cited fears about noise, health concerns and visual amenity.

The polling was conducted by social research company QDOS Research in December last year. Five hundred people were surveyed, including 400 local residents and 100 from a broader area of Queensland.  Of the local residents queried, 53 resided within 15km of the Coopers Gap project; the rest lived within 50km (including residents in Kingaroy and Dalby).

Preliminary results were presented to today’s Coopers Gap Community Consultative meeting in Kingaroy (see more results below).

The consultative group meets monthly, but this is the first time it has met in Kingaroy.

* * *

AGL Project Manager Evan Carless provided an overview of the current status of the project and outlined what the next steps would be:

  • The initial environmental assessment report was released in March 2011.
  • A revised report is currently under preparation and should be released within two months.
  • Submissions would then be sought from the community and agencies on this revised report.
  • A final assessment report would then be prepared and lodged with the State Government.
  • After a determination by the State Government, AGL would make an investment decision, ie whether to proceed or not. The company would look at the current market conditions and the regulatory framework, including what renewable energy targets had been set by the government.
  • If AGL decides to proceed, a construction contract would be awarded after a lengthy tendering process.
  • The pre-construction phase would last between three and six months and would include recruiting a workforce.
  • The actual construction phase would last 30 months.

Mr Carless said AGL was aiming to to submit its application to the State Government later this year, however there was no statutory timeframe within which the government must make a decision. Consultants had advised this could take from six to 12 months.

If this was the case, it could be the end of 2014 before an investment decision could be made and the construction put out to tender. Under this timeframe, the actual construction work would begin in mid-2015.

* * *

How many turbines are likely to be constructed at Coopers Gap?

“Because we are still revising our assessment report, the shape of the wind farm is quite likely to change,” Mr Carless said.

The number of turbines could increase or decrease but “there is a high probability of change”.  In the same way, the projected power output of the project could also change.

* * *

Where have all the opponents gone?

Opponents of the proposed development no longer take part in the Consultative Committee meetings.

The Cooranga North Concerned Citizens Group voted last September to no longer participate as it believed the committee was not “representative”.

Wind farm opponent and local resident Bryan Lyons said only two CNCCG members were allowed to take part;  other members could sit in the gallery at meetings but were restricted in how much they could say.

“After three meetings, we decided AGL was using it to promote the project rather than consult about our concerns,” he said.

The consultative committee currently consists of 11 stakeholders, including landholders, an indigenous representative, council and AGL representatives, and the chairman.

The  committee today welcomed four new members: Tony Brame (Western Downs Regional Council), Greg Taffe, Mick Cosgrove and Neil French

AGL Community Engagement Officer Amanda Shaw reviewed the topics the consultative committee had originally identified for discussion when it first met:

  • Noise and setbacks (ie how far the turbines must be located from property boundaries and residences)
  • Health impacts, shadow flicker and electromagnetic interference
  • Traffic and construction impact
  • Impact on property values
  • Impact on flora and fauna

A committee member commented that it was a “different” committee now than when these topics were drawn up (see sidebar, right) and some of the priorities of the current committee were different.

The “tone” of the committee had also changed, she said, as it was less adversarial.

However it was agreed that further discussion was required on property values, traffic management and potential benefits to the community.

A property valuer / estate agent would be organised to speak to the next meeting about the effect wind farms had had on property values elsewhere.

A more detailed discussion on traffic management would be held before any construction starts; large-scale movements of vehicles is expected to occur only during the construction phase.

* * *

Submissions from the South Burnett Regional Council and the Western Downs Regional Council were summarised by AGL:

South Burnett topics:

  • Legislative framework
  • Land use and planning
  • Noise – how it will impact humans and livestock
  • Socio-economic assessment
  • Access and traffic
  • Shadow flicker
  • Health
  • Siting of turbines
  • Community fund

Western Downs topics:

  • Community engagement, including engaging with local contractors
  • Cultural heritage
  • Land use and planning
  • Landscape and visual impact assessment
  • Noise
  • Socio-economic assessment
  • Access and traffic
  • Aviation
  • Electromagnetic interference
  • Environmental management plan
  • Health

South Burnett Regional Council representative Chris Du Plessis said he believed the State Government would release guidelines for wind farm developments within the next six months. He had been told the State Government would be the body assessing the Coopers Gap development, not council.

Western Downs Regional Council committee representative Jane Holdsworth said her council had in place a program which would be able to engage immediately between the construction contractors and local businesspeople.

Both councils said they were interested in the establishment of community development funds.

* * *

Some more key findings from the poll:

  • 75 per cent of local residents had heard either a little or a lot about the Coopers Gap project
  • 64 per cent thought it would be good for the environment globally
  • 58 per cent thought it would be good for local jobs; 31 per cent thought it would make no difference
  • 42 per cent thought it would make no difference to the local environment; 35 per cent said it would be good
  • 44 per cent thought it would make no difference to the visual appeal and general amenity of the area; 31 per cent said it would be good
  • 76 per cent thought it would make no difference to their business
  • 51 per cent thought it would make no difference to their health; 19 per cent thought it would be bad; 15 per cent thought it would be good; and 15 per cent didn’t know
  • 58 per cent thought it would make no difference to livestock
  • 39 per cent thought it would be bad for property values; 31 per cent thought it would make no difference; 19 per cent thought it would be good; and 12 per cent didn’t know
  • 41 per cent thought it would make no difference to noise levels; 31 per cent thought it would be bad; 10 per cent thought it would be good and 19 per cent didn’t know
* * *
The next Community Consultative meeting will be held at the Bell Community Centre from 1:00pm on February 21. 

 
Related articles

New committee members Neil French, a Cooranga North landholder and Cr Tony Brame (WDRC)

Tom Hoare from Burrandowan and Sue Sinnamon from Cooranga North are both landholders

Beth Glode, from Kingaroy, and Val Stewart, from Cooranga North; Beth's sons Russell and Barry are Cooranga North landholders

WDRC Manager Major Developments Jane Holdsworth with SBRC Manager Planning and Land Management Chris Du Plessis

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4 Responses to Local Residents Back Wind Farms

  1. Grant Newson

    It is great to be part of, and supporting, the ongoing process associated with the Coopers Gap Wind Farm Supporters Group and AGL.

    I find it a bit frustrating with the time factor taking so long compared to some other industries, especially in the resources sector. It also seems that the concerns raised about this Wind Farm via councils have all been ignored with the CSG boom in the Western Down region. Each and every issue is an ongoing problem for residents with any CSG/Coal development area.

    This renewable clean energy supply has only one impact on surrounding areas – you can see them. That is why the Tourism industry will benefit from this attraction. You just don’t get the tourism associated with the CSG industry due to its toxic environment.

    It is wonderful that Councils are playing a major part in this process, but I do hope that they are not trying to stifle the process or gain extra income from AGL via the mentioned “Community Fund”.

    • jc

      Grant, I’m struggling to understand your logic in this response. You indicate that there is no connection between current and future industry development and the long term sustainability of the electricity industry (including AGL’s proposed wind farm), locally and elsewhere.

      In your role as the candidate for The Australian Greens at every election, it would be helpful if you could explain in more detail some of the comments you make online about where you actually stand on growing Australian industry and business? Often, you leave open to wide interpretation that it wouldn’t bother you or your party if no one had a job that paid taxes to support our society as we know it.

      My reading of the AGL survey results above does not answer the following questions:

      1. The actual number of jobs (permanent) that this wind farm will create in the area. How many full time jobs will it provide, in what skill types and where will they be located – Dalby or Kingaroy (can’t be both)? The throw away line that renewable energy developments will create “green jobs” is usually followed by a lengthy silence about the actual number and types of jobs that locals could aspire to securing? Could you list them Grant, or are you just repeating the party line hoping that people don’t eventually inform themselves that there aren’t equal numbers of jobs available as compared to say other similar industries in an area?

      2. If the resources industry continues (CSG, coal, ore etc) to retract at the level it did in 2012 and no new electricity demand (driven by high demand industry, resources or otherwise) comes online within a few years, will the employment levels at AGL Coopers Gap be sufficient to take up the 100′s jobs that could go locally?

      3. AGL is a commercial entity seeking to making a commercial return (it is not a charity from my reading) from its renewable energy investment, courtesy of our taxes and higher retail prices for electricity. It seems to me that paying a landowner for wind that did not originate on their property is a form of persuasion (or bribery in the old days) to achieve their commercial objectives i.e get landowners permission to locate towers on farms and in valleys.

      I find it somewhat of an imbalance that if wind originates on someone else’s property, or over the ocean and blows over the land that the towers are located on that we don’t all receive a financial benefit. Wind is something that no one owns, builds or controls yet to establish a tower on a willing or unwillingly landowners property requires payment to achieve? Why?

      Why isn’t compensation for the location of a tower on land all that is required to achieve the community’s approval of a wind farm, why is payment for generation included? I as a resident of Qld apparently own the minerals in the ground but I don’t recall receiving a payment for the last shipment that left our ports for lower-cost nations to develop into a product that I will again pay for at a retail shop in Kingaroy?

      4. I think you should not kid yourself Grant about the community fund and the offer of sweeteners to establish this tourist attraction in the South Burnett. They should be seen for what they are – means to a commercial end, that is AGL making hay while the sun shines, or in their case ,the wind that blows tax payers money up Coopers Gap in the form of a subsidy! It may not just be the landowners against it development that form resentment to it.

      Grant, in case your wondering, I’m not anti renewable energy development. I just believe that the decision makers, and those that offer input should establish an even playing field so that at the end of the day you and I have real jobs and pay minimal for electricity because of the abundance of all types of resources that can produce low cost electricity here in Australia. More importantly I would not be so cynical if political parties attempting to lead the charge on the electricity industry’s reformation, actually understood and could explain to the uninformed all the factors that make it up.

      Our efforts as Australians should be much more on the long term of growing industry and business instead of pointless discussions around ideology, self-defeating legislation and “silent killer” business investment and development taxes such as carbon tax. Otherwise in 20 years when I retire, I will not enjoy the support of a society I contributed taxes to for over 50 years.

    • ors

      On reading the survey or poll results (as a long time epidemiologist/clinician/researcher) I am unclear as to the true parameters and cross-referrals undertaken to ensure accurate results. Simple, single percentages for a category do not necessarily reflect numbers or concerns. As a local resident and landholder NOT hosting turbines (those happily shown in pix seem all to be hosts) but in the attenuation (noise) threshold zone ,the poll reflects too wide a spread of respondents. That is, only those within the actual area and 3-4km ‘noise tunnel’ should have been polled. A more general poll about ‘attitude’ and ‘knowledge’ should have been a separate item or results detailed in separate sections.

  2. ors

    One further comment. We were not aware this or other meetings were taking place. AGL are not canvassing locals to meetings but have relied upon the local groups to do that. If a group takes itself out of the loop (regrettable) then others of us are also left out. This is unsatisfactory to say the least. There has been a high turnover of ‘liaison officers’ which may be unsurprising given the strong antipathy, community divisiveness and animosity abounding in the past 2 years. Feelings locally are not ‘sympathetic’ at all, excepting for those who may host turbines. Please also be aware that turbines have not been well accepted overall and that considerable evidence is amassing that overseas pioneers of same are rethinking the wisdom of the methods and withdrawing or not renewing equipment (Denmark). The UK has placed turbines 3 miles offshore, won’t bring them onland and are now uncertain that costs will or can be recovered. Information locally was that the power produced would be insignificant and not noticed at Tarong, even on ‘good days’. Worth thinking about.