From left, Judy and Ian Schafferius, from Boyneside, with Russell, Gordon and Beth Glode, from Cooranga North
One of the 80m turbine towers photographed by the group at Hallett; the tip of the 56m blade is cutting through the air at great speed, but the blade itself appears to be rotating slowly; it is also a long, long way above the heads of people (or cattle)

July 6, 2013

The controversial AGL wind farm at Coopers Gap is apparently one step closer to becoming a reality. And for a group of Cooranga North and Boyneside landholders, it can’t come quickly enough.

Landholder Judy Schafferius told southburnett.com.au a group of “turbine hosts” (ie people who have agreed to have AGL erect wind turbines on their properties) had met recently with Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney and representatives from Energy Minister Mark McArdle’s office.

They were told the State Government has begun drawing up planning guidelines for wind farms in Queensland.

This has apparently been the stumbling block which has stopped AGL from putting in a formal development application for the project.

Judy said the development of these guidelines also confirmed that the decision whether the Coopers Gap wind farm goes ahead would be made at State Government level, rather than by the local South Burnett Regional Council.

Judy and her husband Ian expect to be hosting nine turbines on two blocks at Boyneside.

Russell, Gordon and Beth Glode believe they will have between five and seven, on three blocks at Cooranga North.

Recently the two families were among a group of 19 people who travelled to Hallett, about two hours north of Adelaide, to inspect operational AGL wind farms.

Their air fares and two nights’ accommodation were paid for by AGL, but they insisted they were free to talk to whoever they liked along the way, and could ask any questions they liked.

All the members on the trip were either members of AGL’s Community Consultative Committee and/or future turbine hosts.

“Members of the (anti-wind farm) Cooranga North Concerned Citizens group were also invited but refused to come,” Judy said.

The group inspected a number of different turbine towers, from a number of distances.

“What we saw first hand strengthened in all our minds that there won’t be any noise problems,” Ian said.

“We pulled up near one man’s house which is 700m from a turbine. We also stood right under the turbine.”

Ian said it was a fairly windy day, and there was a lot of natural wind noise.

“We couldn’t hear anything from the turbine above the wind noise,” he said.

They also noted that although the tips of the blades were actually travelling through the air very quickly, the blades as a whole appeared to be turning very slowly; and unlike windmills, they didn’t speed up.

“If the wind becomes stronger, a brake automatically comes on,” Ian said.

“I was very impressed. Any fears we had were allayed.”

Russell Glode agreed: “It would have been good if some of the Concerned Citizens had gone down and checked it out for themselves.”

Judy said she believed any turbine noise would be even less in the Coopers Gap environment.  At Hallett, there were hardly any trees to absorb any noise; she said; whereas Coopers Gap was heavily timbered.

Standing 800m from the turbine, the only thing she could hear was traffic on a nearby road; she said she could hear nothing coming from the tower.

“After being down there I can’t see there will be any problems,” she said.

The group then visited another wind farm and listened at distances of half a kilometre and at 1.5km.

“If people say they are worried about the noise, they haven’t got a leg to stand on,” Gordon Glode said.

The group also talked to people at a local hotel, store and school.

“We didn’t hear any complaints,” Judy said.

But they were told the wind farm had brought economic benefits to the small town of nearby Burra where they spoke to a local publican.

The pub had been making a small annual profit when he purchased it during one of the construction stages of the wind farm. Within four years it was making a $180,000 profit, and last year made $240,000 … “all through tourism”.

“AGL have set up a blade on the side of the road. People stop to have a look and then have a meal or a drink at the pub,” Judy said.

“The people at the Post Office said the same thing.  The turbines are a real tourist attraction.”

Russell said that if the project goes ahead “it will benefit everyone”.

Judy said that as well as tourism spin-offs, they had been told there would be 16 full-time jobs created when the turbines were built plus maintenance crews who would stay in the local community.

The two families are annoyed that local LNP Federal Member Bruce Scott has come out publicly against the project going ahead.

And his recent statement: “Wind farms also take up large parcels of agricultural land which are used for food production” has them puzzled.

At Coopers Gap, it is proposed the turbines will be located on rocky ridges, not exactly the best land upon which to grow crops.

“And it’s not going to impact on our grazing ability at all,” Judy said.

Ian, who also runs an Australian Stock Horse stud, said he expected his older horses would “look at” the towers when they were first erected but was confident they would get used to them quickly. He believed the towers would be just a part of the normal background for foals born on the property.

Both families said they wished people who had doubts about the project would attend a Community Consultative Committee.

The last meeting, held at Cooranga North, featured a talk by a Robert Dupont,  a valuer from leading property company Preston Rowe Paterson.

“We asked him some pretty curly questions,” Ian said.

“It’s a pity that those people who do have doubts didn’t come along.”

The next Community Consultative Committee will be held from 1:00pm on August 15 at Kumbia Memorial Hall.

NB. The wind farm project has been hanging over the heads of local residents for some time. It was first mooted publicly in 2008 (at the time, it was suggested it would be operational by 2011).  AGL purchased the project in 2009.

[Photos: Judy and Ian Schafferius]

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