The federal government’s Wind Farm Commission has handled 90 complaints in its first 14 months of operation, with 67 of those deemed “closed” with no further action to be taken.
Almost half of the complaints received (42) were for proposed wind farms that are not yet in operation. Thirty-one complaints were closed because the complainant did not progress the matter with the commission.
A $650 million wind farm near Dundonnell has been approved and will be Victoria’s largest, with 96 turbines.
Andrew Dyer, the Wind Farm Commissioner, receives an income of $205,000 a year for his part-time role and has a staff of three people to assist him in his role to resolve community complaints about the operation of wind farms.
A Senate committee last year was told that the Wind Farm Commission would cost a total of $2.05 million over the lifetime of its three-year operation.
The Department of Environment and Energy told Fairfax Media that the commission to date has cost the government $801,000, including Mr Dyer’s salary.
Asked if the government considers the Wind Farm Commission a worthwhile expense, the Minister for Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg, said: “The National Wind Farm Commissioner plays a valuable role working collaboratively with all levels of government, scientists, industry and the community to help resolve complaints on the operations of wind turbine facilities.”
Details of complaints received are outlined in the commissioner’s first annual report, tabled on March 31, 2017.
Of the 90 complaints received, nearly half of those (31) closed by the commission were because complainants did not progress the matter.
A further 32 were closed because complainants received information from the commission that addressed concerns raised. Two complaints were settled by negotiation and two other closed complaints were deemed “other” by the commission.
The remaining 23 complaints “are at various stages of the complaint handling process”, Mr Dyer said in his report.
The report does not outline the number of complainants. However, Mr Dyer told Fairfax Media that there were 72 complainants for the 46 complaints received for operating wind farms and 54 complainants for the 42 complaints received for proposed farms.
A number of the complaints were submitted by multiple complainants, Mr Dyer said.
Most complaints (48) were because of noise, with 43 complaints being related to health concerns.
The commissioner, Mr Dyer, in the report said that “complaints regarding health concerns … have provided only anecdotal evidence”.
The report said: “It has therefore been difficult to confirm whether or not the stated health conditions reported by complainants are a direct result of the wind farm’s operations or from some other cause.”
The Australian Medical Association has said that there is no evidence to “support the view that the infrasound or low-frequency sound generated by wind farms causes adverse health effects on populations residing in their vicinity”.
Further, the AMA said: “Individuals residing in the vicinity of wind farms who do experience adverse health or well-being, may do so as a consequence of their heightened anxiety or negative perceptions regarding wind-farm developments in their area.”
Agreement to establish the Wind Farm Commission was reached under former prime minister Tony Abbott. It was established on October 9, 2015, less than a month after Malcolm Turnbull deposed Mr Abbott.
The commission was agreed to in negotiations with cross-benchers in the previous senate in order to pass the government’s Renewable Energy Target. The main advocates for the establishment of the commission were former senator John Madigan and NSW Senator David Leyonhjelm.
Mr Abbott has described wind turbines as “visually awful” and former treasurer Joe Hockey, now Ambassador to the US, said they were “utterly offensive”.
Labor’s climate change and energy spokesman, Mark Butler, said: “There is no evidence this role [of Wind Farm Commissioner] serves any purpose besides wasting taxpayers’ money.”
This article first appeared on SMH.