Where are Australia’s wind farm refugees?

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Anti-wind groups now claim more than 40 families have deserted their homes due to health effects of nearby wind farms. But where are they?

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One of the most enduring claims made by anti wind farm groups is that families have to “abandon their homes” near Australian wind farms because of the insufferable effects on their health. Details are rarely provided but a powerful image remains of lives so desperate that people walk away from their homes.

Sarah Laurie, a (not currently registered) doctor who heads the anti-wind farm Waubra Foundation, chaired by mining and fossil fuel investment millionaire Peter Mitchell, said in September 2011 that there were “well over 20 rural families in Australia who have been forced to leave their homes because of serious health problems they have developed since the turbines commenced operating”. A year later this had leapt to “more than 40“.

I wrote to Laurie nearly a year ago, asking her to send a list of the addresses of these abandoned homes. I wanted to start enquiries in each location to corroborate her claims. She replied that she had sent the information in a confidential submission to Senator Doug Cameron, who was chairing a 2012 Senate enquiry into wind farms. Cameron’s office confirmed that a submission had been received, that its contents were confidential but that the submission contained no names or identifying details of anyone claimed to have abandoned their house.

Laurie shut down the conversation by writing “As the information was provided to me in confidence,  I  will not be providing it to you, so please do not ask me again.” Her claims are thus not open to any scrutiny and a good candidate for factoid status: “facts” with little veracity which if repeated often enough come to be taken as real.

If people really had abandoned their homes, and lost financially in the process, it would be reasonable to expect that many would not seek anonymity, but just the opposite. Publicity to the injustice of having to walk away from a home without selling it, or being penalized for breaking a lease could focus news attention and perhaps trigger compensation. Such stories would be made for television. So where are they?

The small town of Waterloo in South Australia is said by wind farm opponents to be a hot-bed of abandoned homes. It is. But not for the reasons claimed. Waterloo is a small settlement that is looking very tired. Climate change denying journalist James Delingpole described it thus: “Waterloo felt like a ghost town: shuttered houses and a dust-blown aura of sinister unease, as in a horror movie when something dreadful has happened to a previously ordinary, happy settlement”.

Many economically non-viable towns like Waterloo are like this, with real estate agent windows full of yellowing for sale signs in forlorn hope of buyers. There are few shops or services, little employment and most children on leaving school move away. In such environments, when a cashed-up wind energy company establishes a wind farm and stories spread of the “drought proofing” rentals being paid to turbine hosts, it is understandable that some may see complaining as a potential one-way ticket out of town.

I am setting out to investigate Laurie’s “40 families” claim.  So here is a very public challenge to Laurie or anyone else promoting the abandoned homes claim: provide me with the addresses of these homes. I will then investigate questions like these. When was the house “abandoned”? Was any attempt made to sell the house? What is the opinion of local real estate agents about the salability of the house? Have property prices in the area gone up or down since the wind farm commenced operation? Did the family who “abandoned” the house have any employment or did they leave to seek employment elsewhere? Were there “pull” factors known to neighbours about this family, such as a marriage break-up or children needing to be nearer a school on another town?

So far, I have two publicly known wind farm “refugees”, both from Waubra, with one’s status as a genuine refugee under a cloud because the family has quietly moved back. Thirty eight to go.  Failure to supply addresses will be taken as evidence that this is a nothing but factoid.

Simon Chapman AO is a Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney – [email protected]

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52 Comments
  1. Chris Fraser 6 years ago

    It is a matter for serious study. If the awful syndrome is to be explored let alone confirmed, it is reasonable for all the homes to be studied by entomologists, including a psychological study of all social factors involved. To avoid temporary surges of abandonments and returns, a longitudinal study of the homes should be pursued.

    • thin_king 6 years ago

      Entomologists? My god, do wind farms also turn people into insects?! Is there no end to the evil of these things?

    • Chris Fraser 6 years ago

      I can’t even blame that one on my over-officious iPad.

      • Mike Barnard 6 years ago

        But it’s very funny, if unintentionally. I appreciated it much more than all of the AGW deniers who keep saying that it is anthropomorphic global warming aka a warming climate into which we read human attributes and desires. They are just ignorant.

  2. Ivor O'Connor 6 years ago

    Not sure you want to look into these 38 or 40 people. They may be dangerous or have some communicable alien virus.

    Seriously though it would be interesting if they really did exist to see if they had a valid reason.

  3. Ketan Joshi 6 years ago

    This is actually a great example of a few key tactics used by anti-wind groups.

    – Artificially inflating numbers, so there’s an element of truth that serves as a fallback and a distractor, but the false value can be used repeatedly. Analogous to the presumption that all infrasound is dangerous, because very high levels of infrasound are dangerous

    – A seemingly concerted effort to not consider health complaints in the context of the whole population – by not acknowledging the frequency of these health complaints normally, and by ignoring the population that remain ‘unaffected’, they shift the focus away from science and towards an emotional response.

    – An extremely defensive, conspiratorial and adversarial attitude, as opposed to an attitude of collaboration, openness and willingness to investigate. This is the difference between pseudoscientists and researchers.

    • George Papadopoulos 6 years ago

      Certainly Ketan, Chapman and you are in perfect sync with your aspirations to promote the wind industry.

      I am aware of five families who have abandoned their homes and only keep their homes and don’t sell them because they happen to be on farming land which they still use. AND AT LEAST THREE OF THESE FAMILIES to my knowledge are on public record stating they have done so.

      There also many other families that I know of that spend some time at their homes and sometimes spend part of the week elsewhere recovering from all the sleep deprivation.

      I don’t know why poor little Chapman feels so cheated by the Sarah Laurie: The information is out there, there are youtube videos, reports in the Australian, on 2GB (Alan Jones), Senate submissions and elsewhere.

      Chapman has refused to answer basic questions on his own published papers – my questions are found on this website and elsewhere. Yet this doesn’t seem to concern you does it?

      It just so seems that you and Chapman are so preoccupied with demonising Sarah Laurie and nothing better.

      • Ketan Joshi 6 years ago

        Hi George,

        You state three of those families are on the public record. Could you list links to those records?

        • George Papadopoulos 6 years ago

          Ketan, seriously you don’t even know three families who have abandoned their homes, particularly the one who Chapman rudely suggested that “brain damage” might have something to do with his claims?

          • Nick Valentine 6 years ago

            George, the links?

          • George Papadopoulos 6 years ago

            https://theconversation.com/wind-turbine-syndrome-farm-hosts-tell-very-different-story-18241 The one story that sweet little Chapman knows so well of – the man with “brain-damage” [not that there is evidence that it affects his ability to reason] who noticed peculiarities with his mobile out in the field, who has had his health destroyed since Waubra wind farm went up, who has stated that he now lives in Ballarat.

            And all those other “negative” media reports that Chapman knows that the wind industry keep a close eye on: http://ses.library.usyd.edu.au/handle/2123/8977 , but Ketan [wind industry man] doesn’t know????
            And you all expect George to waste 15 minutes of his time educating the “naïve” pro-wind industry proponents, who have spent the last few years performing character assassinations, mocking and laughing at the claims of all those “anti-wind activists” who might be associated with coal industry….
            If I only could take you so seriously to post a few links so readily available…

          • Nick Valentine 6 years ago

            George, as you post here I believe you should come equipped with evidence to back your assertions. It’s your responsibility to back your assertions, not ours. If you’re unable to back your claims either don’t post or, alternatively, be prepared for scrutiny.
            Incidentally, I’m still waiting on those noise monitoring results you claim to have showing elevated infrasound at your house

          • George Papadopoulos 6 years ago

            Nick, you and others claim that there is no harm from wind turbines, they are going to make a meaningful reduction in CO2, etc etc.
            I am yet to see any positive evidence that affirm that wind turbines are do such – just the endless repetition of there is “currently no published evidence directly linking wind turbines bla bla bla”, this new wind farm “may” “should” “could” save x squillions of tonnes of carbon emissions, if and maybe bla bla bla.
            Do your own research on wind turbine refugees and you may find a lot more than I personally know.

          • Nick Valentine 6 years ago

            George, the burden of proof rests with you. Stop creating diversions.

          • George Papadopoulos 6 years ago

            Nick, I think I starting to work out the “audience” that I am dealing with.

          • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

            I don’t see a single link or name in that comment.

            Did you hit “Post” too soon?

          • simonchapman6 6 years ago

            stop playing childish games George, just name the addresses and if they pan out, we will be 36 short of Laurie’s 40 families

          • George Papadopoulos 6 years ago

            oh, and here is another one for the poor little Chapman to read: http://stopthesethings.com/2013/10/05/richard-paltridge-one-mans-battle/
            Can the dear professor make sense of any gag clauses or confidentiality clauses in this story?

          • Simon_Chapman 6 years ago

            Thank you George. Ms Godfrey appears to be subject to a confidentiality clause which is presumably no different than those which routinely apply to legal settlements in general. Having reached a settlement she could not be said to have either “abandoned” her home nor be a “refugee” (I have never heard of refugees being paid to leave a place). She is a sentient adult who accepted an offer to move and is now being promoted by by people like you as something entirely different

          • George Papadopoulos 6 years ago

            So how does Simon know the details of the Godfrey case? Does he run the wind turbine industry inquisition?
            So my dear Simon, why would Acciona settle with Godfrey and request a confidentiality clause? Was it because Acciona felt that its wind turbines did harm her health?

          • Dan Wrightman 6 years ago

            But she did move out of her house and she was compensated by the wind company. Now why would a profit seeking corporation offer to buy out a homeowner? You say the reason she accepted to move is ‘something entirely different”. If you have inside knowledge why don’t you tell us the reason?

          • George Papadopoulos 6 years ago

            Dan, I don’t know the details but maybe her home was difficult to sell so Acciona did the rest of the job?

          • Dan Wrightman 6 years ago

            Acciona has bought out homes for residents claiming health problems in Ontario as well. http://ontario-wind-resistance.org/2011/04/28/four-of-the-ripley-five-homes-bought-by-wind-developers/

          • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

            From your link…

            “If there are no health effects from Industrial Wind Turbines as their
            proponents claim, then why would wind plant operators buy the homes of
            wind victims?”.

            Perhaps because the people who were bought out were caught up in the hysteria created by anti-wind people and came to believe that they were suffering. Perhaps, as seen in other situations, they blamed wind turbines for problems they already had before the turbines were installed.

            It might have been good PR for the wind farm to simply buy their houses and then sell them on to some non-tinfoil hat folks.

            Businesses commonly pay bothersome idiots to go away. It’s cheaper than litigation.

          • Dan Wrightman 6 years ago

            Sad Sad Sad…..the wind proponents have asked for names and addresses of refugees and when examples were given they were called “brain damaged” and “bothersome idiots” This just proves that the wind industry ideolgues have no soul or heart when it comes to human suffering. Why would people who have already been forced to abandon their homes want to publicly victimize themselves by submitting themselves to the disgusting abuse and denigration of these people.

          • George Papadopoulos 6 years ago

            Thank you very much Dan.
            Does the professor, Nick Valentine or others have any comments to make?

          • Bob_Wallace 6 years ago

            Sure do.

            So far neither you nor Sarah Laurie have produced the names you claim to have.

            Both of your credibilities are taking major hits….

          • George Papadopoulos 6 years ago

            Bob, so what burns you and Chapman so much to get a list off Sarah Laurie? Do you suspect that some wind turbine hosts have “betrayed” the industry by breaking commercial in confidence clauses [gag clauses]?
            The industry has better tabs on things that what Sarah Laurie does. Why doesn’t the industry release any such figures? A bit harmful eh?

          • Dan Wrightman 6 years ago

            Don’t bother George he seems to believe only wind company data.

          • George Papadopoulos 6 years ago

            Dan I used to think Chapman behaved that way two years ago. Now I coming to conclusions that he most likely forms part of an lobby group who abuse the privilege of their public positions.

          • Patrick 6 years ago

            Answer the question George. I hope these alleged refugees have moved further away than 35km from any wind farm, otherwise they may need to move again. And by which time they will then be counted twice by Sarah and co?

      • Miles Harding 6 years ago

        Who’s that trip-trapping over MYYyyy bridge!

        More to the point, the likes of the Waubra foundation are perfectly happy to simply bullshit to support their agenda. What is surprising is the number of fools that absorb such obvious rubbish and regurgitate it.

      • Ivor O'Connor 6 years ago
        • George Papadopoulos 6 years ago

          Sounds like the author of the video can’t tell the difference between wind turbines and air…
          The roaring sound is SO obvious

          • Ivor O'Connor 6 years ago

            Seriously guys? (Dan Wrightman & Papadopoulos). I was sort of hoping you two would find some counter examples that actually had turbine noises. However if you are finding noise in these examples makes me wonder about your veracity.in general.

            George Papadopoulos writes:
            “Sounds like the author of the video can’t tell the difference between wind turbines and air…The roaring sound is SO obvious”

          • RuralGrubby 6 years ago
          • RuralGrubby 6 years ago
          • Mike Barnard 6 years ago

            Delusional. The sound of 35 mph winds blowing past the camera mic is what GeoPap hears, yet he attributes it to wind turbines. When the mic is shielded with the windows down inside the truck — no noise at all.

            GeoPap’s credibility decreases with virtually every comment he makes. You think he would realize that.

            Watch and see if he has a Pavlovian reaction as I say some key phrases:
            – 35 kilometers
            – 70 kilometers
            – 100 kilometers
            – Geovital Academy
            – Scam aimed at cancer sufferers
            – geopathic stress

          • George Papadopoulos 6 years ago

            Yes, and when I pull my car window up, the “wind” ie the traffic noise on the road seems to die down also…

          • Mike Barnard 6 years ago

            And yet another statement with no observable relevance to the discussion or the video. Fascinating.

          • George Papadopoulos 6 years ago

            Why did MIK-BAR think that putting the window up was going to make no difference to the wind turbine noise? What about when the camera was outdoors away from the truck window?

          • Mike Barnard 6 years ago

            GeoPap, you are merely proving that you didn’t watch the video and didn’t understand the words that I wrote. Please return to the earlier comment and re-read it. Then watch the video and see what I’m talking about. Then, and only then, comment again.

            You would save yourself a lot of embarrassment if you actually watched videos and read links before starting to type. I know that might interfere with your bias, but you should try it.

          • George Papadopoulos 6 years ago

            MIK-BAR, you could save yourself a lot of embarrassment also by thinking before you spoke.

          • Mike Barnard 6 years ago

            And in the comeback lines of the ages, this ranks up there with “And … uh… you too!”

            Also, it makes no sense, but we’ve learned to expect that from GeoPap.

          • George Papadopoulos 6 years ago

            Much like the only sense I make of MIK BAR is a pro-wind industry activist who either thinks he works for IBM or is paid by IBM to troll the net and swat the “opposition” and “detractors”…

  4. Blair Donaldson 6 years ago

    It seems strange that people are happy to voice their discontent when being disenfranchised courtesy of a proposed road tunnel in Melbourne while others apparently remain mute because of wind farm projects. It’s more than a little odd that the anti-tunnel people grab media attention at every chance and happily have their names publicised yet people who claim to be adversely affected by wind farm projects skulk around in some twilight world (mostly) afraid to be named or provide evidence to support their claims. I cannot help but wonder if it is because the latter group are victims of their own propaganda, avoiding being named because closer inspection reveals the hollowness of their claims?

  5. Dan Wrightman 6 years ago

    Will Chapman correct the omission of resident complaints on Table 1 http://windfarmrealities.org/wfr-docs/chapman-complaints-study.pdf for the Cullerin Range wind plant in light of new information uncovered by Patina Schneider ? http://windfarmrealities.org/w
    Does this bring more uncertainty to the validity of his nocebo effect hypothesis since there were no anti wind groups active in the Cullerin area?
    Was it irresponsible to rely on the wind corporations to release accurate complainant data?
    Does relying on accurate voluntary wind corporation data put into doubt the veracity of Table 1 on which his paper so heavily relies upon as evidence?

    • Dan Wrightman 6 years ago

      So what happened at Cullerin?
      “Methods

      Information on the commencement of turbine operation, the number of turbines operating, average turbine size and the megawatt (MW) capacity of each wind farm was located from public sources such as wind farm websites.

      Wind farm operators have clear interest in any reactions of nearby residents to the farms they operate. In the planning, construction and power generation phases of wind farm operation they monitor local community support and complaints submitted to them, in news media and via notifications from local government. In Victoria, companies are required by law to register all complaints with the state government. In September 2012 all wind farm owners in Australia were asked to provide information on:

      farm they operated. Google Maps and census data were also used to obtain this data.

      • whether the company had received or was aware of any health and/or noise complaints, including sleeping problems, that were being attributed to the operation of their wind farms.

      • the number of individuals who had made such complaints (direct complaints to the companies, those voiced in local media, to local government or state or national enquiries).

      • the date at which the first complaint occurred after.

      • whether there had been any anti-wind farm activity in the local area such as public meetings addressed by opponents, demonstrations or advertising in local media.

      Any documentation of complaints such as internet links or news clips about public was requested. Companies were explicitly asked to not send details of any private complaints which could identify those complaining, unless these complaints had been made public by the complainants.”

      • Dan Wrightman 6 years ago

        Below is an excerpt from Patina Scneider’s survey.
        Again, why were the complaints to the wind developer not forwarded to Chapman?

        “68.5% of residents who lived between 0-10km returned the survey with 83% of respondents being impacted by noise and/or vibration. The 83% impacted all have lodged complaints with various authorities and health care providers.
        91% of those that responded out to 8km are impacted by noise and/or vibration which is impacting on their sleep and health and those very same residents have all made complaints. In the 20 households there are 50 residents with a total of 49 being impacted by sleep deprivation and other health impacts.
        20 respondents have lodged an estimated 322 complaints, 3 respondents had complained to various departments but had not estimated how many complaints they had made. The bulk of the complaints were directed to the Wind Developer, the Department of Planning, the Local Council, their local MP and their health care provider, while other complaints were raised with the NSW Health Department, the EPA, other politicians, friends and council committees.”

        • Dan Wrightman 6 years ago

          Would more missed reports of noise and health complaints to wind farm operators be found if the same survey as Patina Schneider’s were sent out to the other wind installations listed as having zero complaints on Chapman’s Table 1?

  6. John P 6 years ago

    On another site I read of a village in the UK that was abandoned because of a nearby wind farm. I asked for a reference in order to cash in on low cost UK real estate!
    I copped some personal abuse but received no actual geographical detail.
    I wonder why!

  7. RuralGrubby 6 years ago

    Who would want to identify themselves to the likes of Simon Chapman?? just to get denigrated and told that it’s all psychosomatic. Chapman approach, seriously puts into question his efforts to meet his professional code of ethics.

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