WIND FARM opponents are calling for a moratorium on further developments after a number of setbacks for the industry.
The Federal Magistrates Court ruled earlier this month that wind farms decreased the value of adjacent properties – something that opponents had long argued about with the South Australian Government.
And the SA Environment Protection Authority recently acknowledged that the complaints of residents about noise disturbances and sleeplessness caused by the Waterloo Wind Farm, near Clare and Manoora, were serious enough to warrant a new two-month study into infrasound – sounds below 20 hertz.
Eastern Mount Lofty Ranges Landscape Guardians chairman Tony Walker said it was getting harder for authorities to ignore landholder concerns.
"They can't just say 'oh no, it's all some sort of a lie by these disgruntled humans'," he said.
"How do you go ahead with a proposal when the evidence says it's going to cause a huge amount of problems in the community?
"If it's created a social disaster at Waterloo, then we always knew what the problems were, but there's more turbines proposed here at Keyneton and more people in the firing line."
Federal Magistrate Hughes ruled in a Regional Victoria Family Court case on February 7 between Raab and Raab, that valuations made on their property – being sold as a result of the couple's separation – reflected value loss that would be caused if a proposed wind farm in the area proceeded.
Two valuers were employed to make judgments about the property's overall value if the wind farm did not proceed, with one judging it to be about $3.2 million and the other $3.135m.
Both estimated the property's value would be reduced to about $2.6m if the proposed wind farm went ahead.
"Although there is strenuous opposition from the local community to the wind farm, there is no way for me to assess the likely success or otherwise of the campaign to stop the project," FM Hughes ruled.
"Given the planning permit for the wind farm has already been granted, it seems reasonable to assume the wind farm is more likely than not to go ahead.
"It's hard to imagine any prospective buyer ignoring that issue.
"Accordingly, I have decided to work only on the basis of the expert opinions as to the value of the land in the scenario in which the wind farm will proceed."
In the face of such issues, Mr Walker said wind farms could no longer go ahead near populated areas because it was logically, and ethically, unjustifiable.
Keyneton resident Harry Makris said the area's proposal had created an "untenable" situation for the local community.
It had been divided into two camps – those who support the farm and those who do not.
"We've got fingers stuck up out of cars, people yelling at each other, posters being ripped off walls, pumped out chests and all that sort of thing, and it's been going on three years," Mr Makris said.
"The State Government's whole wind farm policy has stigmatised anybody who has a wind farm in their view, and now what we have is property devaluation.
"I'm going to ask the DAC to let State Planning Minister John Rau know that the current policy is flawed and to back the politicians that are calling for a moratorium to develop a new strategy for wind farms."
He said the current strategy would only result in a repeat situation every time a wind farm is proposed near populated areas and there was no point in going through it over and over again.
In October, the State Government gazetted new wind farm guidelines that allowed for turbines to be built as close as 1 kilometre to an isolated dwelling in a rural zone, or closer as agreed.
Turbines could also be built within 2km of dwellings, towns and tourist accomodation with right of notification and third party appeal. But if they are more then 2km away they become Category 2 developments and automatic rights of appeal are no longer applicable.
Opposition planning spokesperson Vickie Chapman said the Federal Magistrates Court ruling on land values had corroborated concerns previously raised by landholders about property values and it would be inappropriate for any government to ignore it.
She said rural land value-drop and the EPA's study potentially raised issues of compensation, which was why the government needed to use its "instrumentality" to monitor and act on advice.
"Otherwise they face compensation claims, which means the tax payer pays again," Ms Chapman said.
"They have to remember it's someone else's money they're wasting if they don't keep a lid on these things."
Ms Chapman said a moratorium should be put in place until the issues surrounding wind farming planning had been resolved.
Mr Rau did not see the issue of potential compensation claims as being relevant because he did not acknowledge that wind farms reduced the land value of adjacent properties.
"I have seen no objective long-term study to confirm this or otherwise," he said.
*Full report in Stock Journal, February 21 issue, 2013.