Buffers distance, wind farms and the scam
In Victoria, the issue of gas rigs and their proximity to residences and water supplies stands as 100 metres with new coal power stations at 1km. Under the MRSDA a licensee is not to work within 100m of a dwelling , however under Sec 46 the Minister may authorise mining works near a dwelling house with consent of the landowner. To be noted though that landowner input to this rule is not guaranteed and may be granted on other advice.
It is one the Coalition government’s greatest injustices in recent years that they place wind turbines at 2km from a residential house anywhere in Victoria yet introduce legislation in 2012 that allows a power station to be
built within 1km of a residence.
By this, the assumption is that a wind farm is deemed more hazardous than a power station, is more polluting, noisy, emits more emissions’, visually intrusive and generally bad for one’s health and to that of the environment. A gas drilling rig at 100mts is deemed to be less hazardous, less dangerous, less of a fire threat, less emitting than a wind turbine, a power station, a dog kennel and a working gold mine.
PowerStation employees working in and around mine sites (noted to be 1000meters long) are acknowledged and remunerated under government sanctioned safety accords for exposure to noise and pollution under a 38hr week roster. Yet, a resident that lives beside a working power station 24/7 gets no relief, no compensation, and no recognition of any potential health impact. It begs the question, how can a government in a modern society be so duped into publicly declaring that wind farms will create more negative impacts than that of a coal mine or operational gas rig.
The answer lies more in the Liberal Government connections with large multinational companies and their unhealthy influence over government policy.
The Landscape Guardians are the front group for the Waubra Foundation who has links to mining interests, sceptics, the Liberal Party and the Institute of Public Affairs. Their bogus health scare campaign is a classic example of how genuine citizens were duped to disregard the mounting evidence by the large and growing body of evidence (now numbering some 17 reviews) from around the world debunking “Wind Turbine Syndrome”.
“Facts have a way of emerging through the mud raked over by those who would bury them. People will wonder why with over 100,000 turbines around the world, there has been no World Health Organisation, no National Academy of Science, no recognized medical journal, not even a vet report supporting the Guardians’ views.”
Can we say the same about unconventional gas developments and other mining activities? That is an emphatic NO and a disgraceful indictment that government can collude with the anti-wind lobby to create legislation to abuse the buffer zones objectives. As a result of this groups power and influence the Baillieu government in Victoria (2012):
Mining is exempt from the State Planning Policy Framework (SPPF) of the Planning and Environment Act 1987 (P&E Act) and its corresponding protective objectives and policies.
Because the wind industry does not have the luxury of State planning exemption rules that the mining Industry so exploits, a resident has specific landowner rights and can successfully object to the number and siting of turbines during the planning process. However, these same rights are not afforded to the landowner, neighbour or community to object to any mining development on these same objectives. As such, a person is deliberately and negligently exposed by virtue of set buffer distances to toxic contaminates lawfully granted to a mining company by our Victorian government entrusted with the protection of the person from contaminate pollutions.
Two years on from the Coalition’s infamous capitulation to the anti-wing lobby in 2012 and the Victorian Government continues to ignore public health impacts by negotiating to progress new coal allocations in Latrobe Valley and onshore gas developments around Victoria under a totally inadequate legislative framework for buffer zones. Moreover, existing industry that are found to be contaminating local communities have little recourse. This is no longer acceptable in a modern society where so much peer reviewed data confirms the short, long term and cumulative negative effects to the person and environment over the full life cycle of a mining development and into perpetuity. Yet, government continues unabated and prefers to go into damage control rather than be proactive and either force industry to comply or state the truth and buy out those residents impacted by contamination.
Environmental Justice Australia (formerly Environment Defenders Office) submitted the following briefing notes to the discussion of buffer zones under stricter planning controls. Of course we now know the end result of the discussion with the Victorian Coalition Government going against all common sense and bowing to the perversely influential mining industry.
Wind farms or coal mines - Which one will be subject to stricter planning controls?
The Victorian Government has begun implementing its election promise to tighten the planning controls that apply to wind energy facilities. Their policy, if fully implemented, is likely to make it harder to build wind farms in Victoria.
How do the proposed changes compare with equivalent planning controls for coal mines, or toxic waste treatment plants, or natural gas extraction? Will it be easier to get approval for clean energy or fossil fuels in Victoria?
The table on the following pages compares the Victorian Government’s promised planning laws for wind farms with the existing equivalent controls for four different projects:
- a toxic waste treatment plant;
- a natural gas extraction site;
In the case of the toxic waste treatment plant and the desalination plant, our comparison is based on specific cases in which the Environment Defenders Office (Victoria) Ltd has acted.
It shows that under the Government’s proposed policy, stricter planning controls will be applied to wind farms than to these polluting projects.
Some comparisons between the Government’s wind farms policy and other planning laws:
- A wind farm will not be able to be built within 2km of a home without consent. But a coal mine can be built less than 100m away. For a toxic waste treatment plant, there is no prescribed buffer distance.
- People will be able to claim compensation if a wind farm is built within 1km of their home. But people living within 400m of the Wonthaggi Desalination Plant received no compensation.
- In most cases, local councils get to decide whether or not to approve wind farms in their area. But the Minister has exceptional power to override local councils and impose coal mines or natural gas extraction on communities.
- The list of places where wind farms are excluded from altogether is extensive, but there are no blanket exclusions on where to build a toxic waste treatment plant.
What we, as a community, and government now know, and have for a long time, is that buffer zones to all mining development and expansion are causing significant health issues and have not been given the appropriate recognition in planning schemes to minimise potential impacts associated with open cut mining, such as earth subsidence, noise, dust, fire hazard, and visual intrusion.
Given the recent Morwell Mine disaster it is appropriate that the buffer zones be addressed on a national level to ensure consistency when dealing with the minimisation of impacts particularly with fine particulate matter, heavy metal exposure and toxic gases.