South-west-west Victorian farmers have staged a tractor convoy to protest against a proposed windfarm on prime agricultural land.
Farmers took about 15 tractors adorned with signs such as "No Wind Farms Here," and "No Turbines Near our Homes" to the Ecklin community hall, where the windfarm proponents were holding a drop-in meeting with local residents.
The rally was organised by the Ecklin-Elingamite-Glenfyne Community Association Stop Mumblin Windfarm group.
RE Future is proposing the Mumblin Wind Farm, which would feature 10-15 wind turbine generators in the Ecklin, Elingamite and Glenfyne regions with a combined capacity to generate power for up to 35,000 homes.
Elingamite North dairy farmer, Linda Morgan, said the rally demonstrated the depth of community concern.
"RE Future set it up for one-on-one consultations but it was an opportunity for us to bring our tractors and show this is agricultural land and we want to protect it," Mrs Morgan said.
"We've written to the company and asked questions but had no response, so we've come here to get some answers.
"This could have been avoided with earlier consultation."
Mrs Morgan said group members weren't against windfarms.
"We like the idea of renewables, it's just a matter of where windfarms go and we want to help RE Future find suitable sites," she said.
Glenfyne dairy farmer Dennis Rosolin said the proposed turbines were too close to homes, would take away prime agricultural land and create a visual eyesore.
The group represents more than 70 families.
Members said they worried some farmers wouldn't be able to use fertiliser in spring because of the blades and that buffer zones would impact on adjoining farms.
Local resident Bob Donovan said south-west Victoria was home to an increasing number of windfarms but was a vitally important intensive agricultural region.
"There are a lot of people living in this area," Mr Donovan said.
"If the windfarm went further north, there are huge properties and they won't bother anybody.
"There are also lakes and swamps with native birdlife here; one of the turbines is only one kilometre from Lake Elingamite."
Farmer Melissa Cardwell said the turbines would be in the middle of an intensive farming and lifestyle area.
"We don't know what noise will come from them," she said.
"It's going to affect our income, our land values, our sleep, possibly our health.
"The buffer zone is one kilometre of the neighbouring property from the edge of the property with the turbines, but we say the buffer zone should be within the host farm's property, not the neighbour's land."
Project director Severin Staalesen said the company had conducted more than 70 face-to-face meetings with local residents and would continue to talk with anyone who wished to speak with it.
He said the farm would have numerous benefits for the local area, with each dwelling within three kilometres of a turbine receiving a solar-battery system, which would make them self-sufficient, in terms of electricity.
There would also be an annual community fund set up and annual cash payments of $3000 for all dwellings, within two kilometres of a turbine.
"This site was chosen for a number of reasons," Mr Staalesen said.
"It has a good wind resource, it has good access to major roads, it's located in an area dedicated to intensive farming, it's located away from areas dedicated to rural living, it's located away from important infrastructure like airports and telecommunications facilities, and finally it has good setbacks to dwellings.
"We acknowledge that some residents have raised serious concerns about the compatibility of wind energy with dairy farming, however experience both locally and around the world shows that the two land uses are entirely compatible."
He said wind farms were located in dairy farming regions all over the world, including in Europe and North America, and dairy farming had continued around them without a problem.
"In the local area, there are two wind farms currently operating in dairy farming country (Timboon West Wind Farm and Ferguson Wind Farm in Cooriemungle), and neither wind farm has had any impact on the dairy farming operations that surround them," he said.
"In terms of aerial spraying, the fact is that aerial spraying continues to this day in and around numerous wind farms in Victoria, including at the Mt Mercer Wind Farm where there is a private airstrip used for spraying located within the wind farm itself.
"Moreover, we've also made it clear that we're willing to work with local spraying contractors to ensure they can continue spraying after the wind farm is built, even if that means switching off turbines while they're spraying in close proximity to the wind farm."
Studies in Australia and overseas had found no measurable correlation between wind farm proximity and property values and that soil quality, access to services and capital improvements remain the major drivers of property value, he said.
The state government has been contacted for comment.
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