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Rates money blown away

ANOTHER legal stoush over the Bald Hills Wind Farm could further cost South Gippsland ratepayers, fuelling debate about whether councils should even be wind farm police.
South Gippsland Shire Council and a law firm representing a landowner near the wind farm at Tarwin Lower are set to return to the Supreme Court of Victoria tomorrow (Wednesday) for a directions hearing.
The legal firm, DST Legal of Abbotsford, is representing landowner John Zakula, and alleges council has not followed a court order to investigate noise levels at the wind farm. DST Legal is asking the court to compel council to undertake the noise investigation.

On August 29 last year, the court approved a joint memorandum reached by the neighbours and council.
That included quashing council’s findings in February 2017 that there were no substantial noise issues at the wind farm.
The memorandum also determined council would again consider whether noise existed, and that council would pay the neighbours’ “costs of and incidental to the hearing”.
Council paid those costs, totalling $20,000, in addition to its own legal expenses.
In the latest proceeding, council has been asked to pay any further legal costs incurred by Mr Zakula.
Residents near the wind farm had said the turbines were producing excessive noise that was affecting their health.
Council mayor Cr Lorraine Brunt said councils should not be given the responsibility of monitoring and enforcing wind farm noise.
“It’s something that obviously needs to be looked at for some other way to handle the compliance issues,” she said.
“The State Government passes the planning permit application and then council gets lumbered with the compliance side of it.”
The Star understands council CEO Tim Tamlin has met with ministerial staff and the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) in relation to councils’ concerns about their responsibilities in relation to wind farms.
MAV CEO Rob Spence said, “Wind farm noise monitoring remains an impossible issue for councils to manage and this is why an independent auditor is required.
“It’s also important to note that this is not just an issue for South Gippsland, and that many rural councils are struggling with the issue due to the resources and expertise required to conduct noise monitoring of wind farms.
“We’ve been trying to work with the state on this without any success, which is placing an enormous burden on rural councils.”
In relation to the latest legal proceedings, Cr Brunt said, “As it is a legal matter, I will not make any comment.”
Council’s executive had proposed to put a report about a proposed investigation plan to councillors for approval at the December 2017 council meeting.
Acting CEO Faith Page said, “due to the nature of the investigation and the time taken to find a suitably qualified investigator, this report will now come to the February meeting.
“This has been explained to the complainants. Council has been acting in good faith and has at no stage done anything to suggest that it is not.”
Immediate past mayor Cr Ray Argento said council was “the meat in the sandwich”, saying if council did not find noise issues with the wind farm, it would face residents in court, as is happening, but if it did find noise issues, the wind farm owners could dispute that and also take council to court.
“Why should ratepayers be footing the (legal) bill?” he said.
The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning has recently established a working group to investigate options to address noise compliance issues for wind farms, including the role of the EPA.

 

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=23935

Posted by on Jan 30 2018. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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