Corporate giant AGL has stepped in to address community concerns about a proposed wind farm at Willatook.
AGL community relations manager Hannah Coffey told a recent meeting of residents that AGL accepted that “a lot of people have had bad experiences with AGL” at its Macarthur windfarm which was why they were taking the unprecedented step of engaging with the community before reaching the planning application stage.
The meeting was organised by Willatook and Macarthur residents and AGL attended as a major investor.
Renewable energy project developer Wind Prospect general manager Ben Purcell, Ms Coffey and Futureye’s director Kelly Parkinson addressed the 60 residents at the Willatook Hall on Wednesday night which was chaired by Moyne Shire councillor Jim Doukas.
The residents raised fears about the project, which includes the construction of about 85 wind turbines with a 395.9 megawatt capacity which are expected to have a tip height of 220 metres. They fear they will affect their health, financial future and rural lifestyle.
The residents called on AGL to “fix” existing problems at Macarthur, such as deteriorating roads, before launching into a new project.
Resident Jacinta Coffey said the area was “becoming a dumping ground for wind energy” and it was "unfair” to the community with more than 240 wind turbines to be built in Hawkesdale and surrounding areas.
She wants AGL to work with the government to “take wind farms away from the community” and build a transmission line in the “thousands of acres” of open space across the country “where people don’t live”.
Attendee Garry Morrison said it was a decision that would affect “the rest of everyone’s lives”.
Residents raised concerns about the deterioration of already crumbling roads and said fire fighting helicopters would not enter the area if the turbines were there. Sleeping problems and the noise generated by the new turbine models which have only recently been released in Australia were other issues discussed.
They voiced financial concerns around decreasing property values, including their superannuation, which was tied up in their land, saying they would not be able to sell their properties if it was built.
Mr Purcell said Wind Prospect and AGL wanted to work with community members “to try to address these concerns and work together to improve the project design”.
Cr Doukas said the meeting went well and the residents had their say. “ A lot of the questions were taken on notice," Cr Doukas said. “I don’t know if they’ll get answered or not. They had their say. We’ll see what happens in the future.”