South Gippsland
Victoria, Australia



Back to Windfarm Home Page.

Govrnments, ie politicians, like to make decisions bsed on quantitative measures, rather than to bring into question subjective arguments or considerations that may vary from situation to situation. It's safer that way. So, if we have to make decisions regarding as to what is an 'acceptable sound level', we take measuresments of what the ambient sound is now, 'add' the sound in question, and see if it is below a set standard for noie. That is a simplification of the isue no dount, you you get the point. The question is, what is an acceptable level? How is this determined? Generally, it can't be. If a standard is set, it may be relevant to one situation and not to the next. Who determines what is acceptable. With nopise (insofar as Victoria is concerned), we have accepted a New Zealand standard of 'acceptable noise level'. If an additional sound, such as wind turbines, is perceived to be 'below' the standard, then that is good for the wind farm operator. If above the 'acceptable' line, a bit of imaginative tweeking of the figures usually brings it down. Either way, decisions can be made irrespective of the individual circumstances. Planners are happy because they have something to work to. Politicians are hppy because its not their fault, of course, if someone complains about a noise situation - there are guidelines and the intrusion mets the guidelines, so thats the end of the matter. And the wind trubine operators have a target to meet, or rather, a target not to be reached, so their presented noise figures are always on the acceptable side, aren't they! 

But when it comes to visual impact, who is to say what is acceptable or not acceptable? My concept or concern of an intrusion into my visual environment could be entirely contrary to someone else. I don't mind the visual intrusion into the landscape of the windturbines at Toora - as I drive past at 100km. But to live with them, day in day out - I understand and sympathise with the concerns of those that do. But all this argument as to what is visual intrusion does not sit easy with any government. The government would very much like a clear cut quantitative determination so that they can look at two sets of figures, compare them, and make a decision. Easy! But how on earth do you properly, genuinly, with a personl visual aspect of the landscape? I have no idea. But some people believe they can do it. The Australian Wind Energy Association is buddying up with the Australian Council of National Trusts to study this question, and thus to come up with a quantitative assessment of visual intrusion. If it is established, it will b easy for a 'consultant' to visit your property, make a valued, quantitative, assessement of a proposed visual impact, and tell you, and the planners,  if it is acceptable or not. 

Having hard that the National Trust and AusWEA were getting together, the following communication is of interest.

12 February 2007. From Peter Stone, to admin@nationaltrust.org.au
Hello National Trust administration.
I was trying to find out if the National Trust has any policy or opinion on the construction of windfarms. I appreciate that the trust is more concerned about bricks and mortar properties rather than the general environment, but thought that you may be concerned about the general detraction of the environment by windfarms, or support their construction, and have made comment as such.

Reply, same day.
From Tom Warne-Smith, Research Officer, Australian Council of National Trusts
Dear Mr Stone,
The ACNT does support appropriately sited wind farms. That is, where a wind farm does not have a significant adverse impact on a heritage landscape we will support it. The aim of the National Trust is to ‘conserve our heritage’. That is cultural, indigenous and natural heritage, and no one element at the expense of the other. The potential adverse impacts on heritage in Australia from climate change are far worse than from wind farms. Please note that this is the view of the ACNT, the federal secretariat of the Trust. Each state Trust is a separate entity with its own policies, though on this issue they do not significantly differ from the ACNT view.
As part of dealing with the conflicting interests in this debate the ACNT is involved with AUSWIND in developing a landscape assessment methodology for the appropriate siting of wind farms. To find out about the project go to www.nationaltrust.org.au

13 February 2007. Response from Peter Stone to Tom Warne-Smith.
Hello Mr Warne-Smith,
Thankyou for your prompt reply and comment, much appreciated.
May I just clarify your definition of "appropriately" sited wind farms. Does the ANCT have an issue with windfarms that are supposedly inappropriately positioned such they disturb the amenity of immediate
neighbours, through, inter alia, noise, flicker, visual, bird issues. It is apprecited that the ACNT is concerned primarily with any impact on the heritage landscape, but I do not understand the definition of landscape in terms of heritage. Your advice would be most apprecited.

20 February 2007. Reply from Tom Warne-Smith to Peter Stone..
Dear Peter,
Sorry I haven't responded I did not receive your 1st reply.
The National Trust supports renewable forms of energy generation and measures to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, including wind-generating facilities. 
The National Trust strongly advocates the protection of significant natural and cultural Australian landscapes, and believes they should be protected from undesirable visual intrusion and other adverse impacts which can be associated with energy and communication infrastructure development. 

Landscape values include those historic, scientific, cultural, social, archaeological, natural and/or aesthetic values which have been assessed as having value for past, present and future generations. 

In regard to 'heritage landscape' is is difficult to accurately define, perhaps it could be said that where a landscape forms an important part of the history of a heritage place it is a heritage landscape. (I'm sure there are better definitions out there, just me thinking off the top of my head). Probably the best I can do is give examples. The ACNT is in Canberra so I'm not particularly aware of places in Victoria that I could site as examples for you. The best thing to do in that regard would be to contact the Vic Trust directly.

The other thing I should point out is that this is the aim of joint project with AUSWIND - to develop a methodology for assessing landscape values.

I hope this gives you I kind of broad brush idea of the Trust approach to the issue. Indeed it is difficult to balance the interests of those directly affected by windfarms and the boarder need to use renewable, non polluting energy to reduce the impacts of climate change on the whole community. If you have any more questions or need more explanation please feel free to email me.


The following is an informal report from Randall Bell, of the Victorian Landscape Guardians Group, who attended a meeting of the Australin Council of National Trusts at which, I presume AusWind attended, headed 'Landscape Assessment Session,,  held on 14 February 2007.

The project is a partnership of the ACNT and Auswind.
We were asked several questions and I will abbreviate our VLG replies which you might find helpful.
It is clear that the project focuses on "visual" all the time which is clearly wrong.

Our  landscape "values" were: Geological, Geomorphological, Hydrological, Ecological, Geographical, Archeological, Agricultural, Economic, Social, Historical, Cultural (tourist/recreactional), Visual, Scenic, Wilderness, Spiritual, Natural, Non-natural, Amenity, Undiscovered

Dr. Jan Schapper from the Heritage Council said she preferred the Burra Charter list: Aesthetic, Historic, Scientific, Social, Spiritual and Economic, although I'm (not?) sure of the last. Another suggested "a sense of place" as a landscape value.
What is your favourite landscape value?
Mye answer was; "spaciousness, even if it is imagined".

The next question was, who should assess these values or characteristics?
The answer overwhelming was; "by those who live in the landscape".
But what happens when there is no æcommunityÆ as with Challicum Hills some distance form a township or obvious community.

How do you select the people to make the assessment?
Self selection "each community" probably has organizations which represent a broad range of interests: farming, surfing, rock climbing, bushwalking ....

How do they assess the values?
They decide how this is done. The professionals, are because of their experience, able to make comparisons with other landscapes which can be useful.

Can the use of consultants be improved?
Yes, they should be firstly independent or the proponent and be selected from a panel at random.
There is clearly no trust in the opinions of consultants "a total breakdown"  and several examples of corrupt opinion were given, "a landscape consultant who had not even visited the site".

How can the consultation process be improved?
Abandoned as it is little more than a charade.
"Consultation" gives no guarantee of ownership whereas "participation" does, at least if it through the Reference Group mechanism.  That is where you are on the inside of the process ("at the table") when the decision it taken.

Does the criteria have to be objective, or subjective or a combination?
This was not dealt with although I felt it was important.

Should the assessments be of Australia/state-wide landscapes or cherry picked to where a wind power plant might be considered?
There was unanimity that it is time to get on with the job of landscape overlays.  All other overlays have been completed in most Victorian municipalities.
It took 50 years to get heritage overlays for the built environment incorporated into the planning schemes.
South Gippsland declared itself a no wind-farm municipality but this was rejected by the Bracks Government.
It might have been in desperation because the Government refused a reasonable request for funding of landscape assessment. I was as Chairman of the National Trust at the time asked by the Shire to lobby for this funding.
On behalf of the Trust I made a written and personal submission to the Minister for Planning back as far as 2002.
It was rejected because it was not in the wind industry's interest to be "handcuffed" to a process which might delay things. Dave Young of the then SEAV was aware that a planning framework was deliberately omitted from the Guidelines, ("DOI let me down", he told me).  He even asked the Trust to convene a committee for that purpose.  To me this was clear evidence that the Bracks Government was rigging the Guidelines to "facilitate" the proponent's application.   

We were each asked to make conclusive remarks.
I said:
"The landscape is finite, a non-renewable resource. You can't create more of it, only move a little of it around.
Non-renewable resources must be respected, treated preciously, conserved and protected.  We all can agree on that. Therefore, all landscapes are significant and must not be sacrificed by inappropriate development unless there is an overwhelming case for it. Wind power does not significantly, or as at all, reduce GHG and so fails the test".

I then quoted from Geoff Strong's article in The Age of 10 August 2006 [LINK]:
"MEMMCO (which is responsible for the transmission of electricity in Australia) does not count it (wind energy) a power generation, because it can't be called up like other forms of power.  Rather, it is classified as a drop in demand. As well, wind does not normally displace coal power (a greenhouse gas emitter); it displaces the more environmentally sound but expensive generators such as hydro-electricity and gas.  In addition because of it's unreliability, wind has to be backed up to 90% of its claimed capacity by other forms of generators."

There has been no published rebuttal of this article by either the Minister for Energy or Auswind as has been the case with anti-wind articles. Please note the words in brackets are mine -Randal Bell.  


YARRAM Homepage