More than 800 people have responded to the controversial Winterbourne Wind Farm proposal located northeast of New England's Walcha Shire.
Submissions ended on January 23 following the release of the Environmental Impact Statement EIS, with recent results showing 387 against the mega wind farm proposal, 433 in favour and 12 who remained neutral.
Because more than 50 people have disagreed with the development in the submissions, it is likely that a review by the NSW Independent Planning Commission IPC will take place and public hearings with experts will be scheduled.
Dutch-based multinational company Vestas had planned the 119 turbines standing 230m to blade tip on a 22,285 hectare site northeast of Walcha town which is expected to power-up about 500,000 homes on completion.
It is located in one of five Renewable Energy Zones REZs that the NSW government announced in 2020 as areas where more state-owned transmission lines would be built as incentives for clean energy companies to hook up to the grid.
But the Winterbourne development has caused tension and conflict in the area, with locals, many of whom support the switch to renewable energy, accusing Vestas' executives of failing to properly engage with locals, answer their questions and turn up to community meetings.
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Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce and Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall have both voiced their concerns at a recent packed community meeting in Walcha, with Marshall describing it as the "worst EIS" he had ever seen.
Locals have said the lengthy EIS does not adequately address the impact of heavy-vehicle use on roads, water use, waste, light and noise pollution, impact on native flora and fauna, and consultation with local Indigenous peoples.
Those who have shown support for the cause have been quick to acknowledge the economic benefits and flow-on effects of job creation in the region from developments such as Winterbourne, while also championing the benefits of clean energy.
Walcha Shire Council, the area of the proposed windfarm, has remained neutral, stating they were unable to make an informed decision due to the EIS being without critical information and data about waste, water, roads and details about local neighbourhood and community benefit funds.
Nearby Muswellbrook and Uralla shires each objected to the wind farm in separate submissions, outlining concerns about heavy-vehicle use on roads during construction as trucks cart blades and cargo from the port of Newcastle to the site.
Uralla's Mayor Robert Bell also described the angst locals have expressed about turbines dominating the skyline, shadow flicker and night lighting.
"Some individuals find them intrusive to the extreme in an otherwise rural landscape in close proximity to National Parks," Mayor Bell said in his statement.
Other concerns include where Vestas would source their 100 mega litres of water across 18 months needed to build the wind farm, and who would foot the exorbitant bill to dismantle and biff-out the blades at the end of the 25-year or so lifespan.
Self-confessed environmentalist and Walcha local Casper Ozinga said he believed the construction company would do "everything required" to meet NSW government standards.
"If wind turbines were invisible there would be no issue with the Winterbourne project," Casper said in his submission.
Walcha local Boyd Brearley also supported the wind farm on the proviso the developer redoes the EIS to meet council concerns and more money is provided to upgrade the Uralla to Walcha and Bendemeer to Walcha roads.
People from as nearby as Walcha to as far away as Sydney and Victoria stated the urgent need to switch from coal to cleaner hydro, solar and wind energies, and the economic flow-on benefits via investment and jobs to the region.
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