“Once in a lifetime opportunity:” NSW farmer on why he wants to host a wind farm

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The owner of land set to host the majority of a 400MW wind farm proposed for development in north-eastern New South Wales has published a letter detailing his reasons for supporting the renewable energy project.

The Hills of Gold Energy wind and battery storage project is being proposed for construction by Wind Energy Partners on a ridge outside the former gold-mining town of Nundle, which is 50km south of Tamworth.

The project is at the very early stages, including community consultation and the drawing up of an environmental impact statement, the latter of which is due to be submitted to the state government before the end of the year.

Not everyone is won over to the idea. Local opponents to the wind farm, including local activist group Hills of Gold Preservation Society, argue that scores of turbines on Nundle’s horizon will ruin the “historic” township’s aesthetic and drive away tourists.

But in a letter to the editor of the local Northern Daily Leader – which has published a number of articles reporting local opposition to the project – local of 31 years Jim Robinson explains why he wants a wind farm on his land, and in his town.

Robinson, whose Hanging Rock land encompasses the ridge that would hold the majority of the project’s 78 turbines (reduced from an earlier number of 97), said he was won over to the idea of what wind farms could do for regional communities after watching a program about it around 12 years ago.

“This proposal was never about myself, it was what it would do for all of us in this community. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the village of Hanging Rock and the town of Nundle to thrive,” Robinson’s letter says.

“The people that are against the wind farm say it will destroy tourism, but most of the people that visit our town are the older generation that drive here in their 4×4 and caravan and have already filled up their car with fuel and fridge with food and beer from Tamworth. They stay at the caravan park for a couple of days but spend very little money in our town.

“There is nothing here for our children and very little for the older generation. If the Wind Farm went ahead, the money from the Community Enhancement fund and also donations from the landholder hosts could do a lot for the area,” he writes.

“Two-hundred-and-fifty jobs for two years; 30 permanent jobs could be up to 70 years. Land owners that host turbines could afford to employ more farm hands and more money will be spent in the local area. Plus many more ideas.

“And most important for our generation and the next, clean green energy for 190,000 homes.”

Whether Robinson’s words will have any influence over the project’s opponents remains to be seen. A recent article in the same paper noted that the voluntary release of seven ‘photomontage’ images of the turbines (pictured above and below) by WEP had done little to appease the core group of objectors.

Mocked-up view of proposed Hills of Gold wind farm from Nundle’s Jenkins Street. Image: Wind Energy Partners

“For over two years people in the community have only been able to guess or imagine what the turbines would look like on the range,” the Hills of Gold Preservation Society’s communications sub-committee chair, Megan Trousdale, said in comments to the paper at the start of the month.

“The reality is worse than what was imagined.”

For its part, Wind Energy Partners says it will leave it to the community to decide whether the visual impact of the wind farm was too great.

“It’s not my role to speak on behalf of the community,” said WEP managing director Jamie Chivers.

“What we have done is provide montages to ensure transparency and ensure people understand what is proposed. I think these pictures, they tell a lot of the story,” he said.

“While the project’s opponents would like to suggest otherwise, there’s a good deal of support for the project in the surrounding community,” added Andrew Bray, the national coordinator for the Australian Wind Alliance.

“There’s a desire to see new employment open up in the area and people do understand that renewable energy is where we’re heading.

“As the project firms up, people want to know the details of how it will benefit the community. Further details around jobs, flow-on economic benefits and community funding programs will be important to get the community over the line,” Bray said.

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