Prominent anti-wind farm activist Tony Hodgson has threatened to sue his Collector neighbours should they become turbine hosts as part of a proposed wind farm in the small community north of Canberra.
Hodgson, a businessman who c0-founded insolvency specialist Ferrier Hodgson, has lately turned his attention to fighting the proposed development of a 63-turbine wind farm at Collector, about 30km west of Goulburn, and 2km from Hodgson’s recently purchased rural getaway.
To this end, Hodgson founded the purpose-built ant-wind group, Friends of Collector, of which he is president. He is also a board member of the national anti-wind group Waubra Foundation.
RATCH-Australia’s proposal for the Collector Wind Farm was referred to the Planning Assessment Commission by the NSW Department of Planning late last month, with the recommendation it be approved. The commission is due to hold a meeting in Collector later today (Tuesday) to hear from the public.
“By leasing your land to accommodate wind turbines, you authorise the nuisance that is likely to result from the noise emitted by the operation of those turbines and you can be held liable in respect of the entirety of the damage sustained by those affected by the nuisance, including any personal injury that materialises,” the letter said.
The letter also warned that the granting of development approval would not be a defence against possible legal action and recommended that recipients seek legal advice.
“The installation of those wind turbines will cause a nuisance on my property and you’re not allowed to do that,” Hodgson said in the Canberra Times.
“It’s already quite clear that just the notion that there’s potentially wind turbines on my property or the adjoining properties … leads to a substantial diminution in value of the property of at least 35 per cent and in some cases 60 per cent.
“This isn’t a threat, this is a promise. You put those things up, I will sue you. There’s not much to discuss.”
Hodgson, who once described Genghis Khan as “a bit of a piker”, said this was the second such letter his lawyers had sent in two years, but he had received no response.
He said he would take his lawyers’ advice should the wind farm be approved, but would not comment on any possible legal action against the company proposing to build the wind farm, RATCH-Australia.
The prospect of a wind farm in Collector has divided the community since its announcement last October, even transforming the annual Collector Pumpkin Festival into a battleground for the wind energy wars.
One of those in favour of the wind farm – and a recipient of Hodgson’s latest missive – local farmer Gary Poile told the Canberra Times he “had a bit of a chuckle” about this latest development.
“To be perfectly honest, I only read the first bit of it and I really didn’t treat it very seriously,” he said. “It’s silly games, I’m not really worried about (Hodgson).
“We’re going to the bullying tactics, are we? I don’t know what it’s all about, but I assume that’s what it is, old school bullying tactics.”
Despite the legal threat being aimed specifically at the landholders rather than the wind farm company, Mr Poile said he would refer any action against him back to RATCH and was confident they would deal with it.
Hodgson and Poile will both be addressing the commission’s meeting in Collector, which has been extended to a second day due to the 41 submissions being made by groups and individuals, including anti-wind farm activist Sarah Laurie from the Waubra Foundation, which is based in South Australia.
Blowing out candles…
Meanwhile, one of Victoria’s first wind energy projects, the Challicum Hills Wind Farm, is this month celebrating its 10-year anniversary. The project’s 35 turbines were built on a little known series of hills close to the small community of Buangor in 2003, at which time it was the largest wind farm in the Southern Hemisphere. Each of the turbines generates enough electricity for 700-800 Victorian homes each year, feeding the power into the local power grid that connects down to Ballarat and up to Stawell.
Challicum Hills is also an example of successful community integration, with its owner, Pacific Hydro, working hard to provide benefits and share value with the wind farm’s hosts. The company operates a community grants program known as the Ararat Sustainable Communities Fund, which returns profits from the wind farm back into local community projects. In recent times the distribution of the $50,000 annual fund has been decided by a panel that includes community members. The upkeep of the wind farm has also provided five full-time jobs.