State planning minister Brad Hazzard released draft guidelines to regulate NSW wind farms in December. The guidelines allow anyone with a residence within two kilometres to veto a wind power project.
If the guidelines become law, this would put the brakes on the wind industry, as the coal seam gas industry bolts ahead.
Hazzard told the Sydney Morning Herald on January 24 that “the jury is still out on the health impacts from wind farms. When it comes to people’s health I’ll take a precautionary approach every time.”
Last year, a senate inquiry examined the social and economic impact of rural wind farms. It found no proof of a direct connection between wind turbine noise and the so-called wind turbine syndrome.
In its submission to the inquiry, Doctors for the Environment said: “A number of reviews have recently been conducted including the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia, the Chief Medical Officer of Health in Ontario and the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit. These major reviews have all come to the conclusion that evidence does not support any direct causal link between wind turbine noise and pathological effects in humans.”
If there is no actual evidence for wind turbine syndrome, then why have such guidelines been proposed?
Part of the answer can be summed up in four words: the Australian Landscape Guardians.
The anti-wind power group presents itself as a non-affiliated group for protection of the Australian environment. It has flooded the media with spin against wind farming and has staged anti-wind rallies. But its leading members have close ties to mining, fossil fuel and climate change denier groups.
The group has set up the Waubra Foundation, which has spread misinformation about wind turbine syndrome. Its board members include unregistered doctor Sarah Laurie, former Liberal federal minister Michael Wooldridge and Peter Mitchell, who has been involved for 25 years in mining and fossil fuel companies.
The Landscape Guardians have tried to manufacture a public perception that wind turbines cause serious health problems.
If Hazzard is genuine about his concern for the health of the population, then why does he not put forward similar guidelines for coal seam gas mining? Much stronger evidence exists for the connection between coal seam gas mining and negative health impacts.
We are still waiting for a royal commission into the full impacts of coal seam gas mining. Unlike coal seam gas mining, wind farms do not contribute to global warming, earthquakes or water wastage. Nor do they poison the soil, air and water.
Wind power, however, does provide clean, sustainable, reliable energy. In South Australia, 20% of the state’s energy comes from wind.
The NSW government’s anti-wind power stance shows that John Mathews’ conclusion in a 2006 New Matilda article remains true today: “There are many reasons to be optimistic about the capacity for the renewable energy sources to deliver us from the bondage of fossil fuels … but there seems to be a perverse insistence in Australia on bowing to vested oil and coal interests.”