MACARTHUR residents have hit back at wind farm critics by highlighting tourism and economic benefits from natural energy generator project in their district.
Business owner Merilyn Cook and farmer Hamish Officer met Wannon MP Dan Tehan this week with the Victorian Wind Alliance (VicWind) to discuss the recently-completed 420 megawatt, $1 billion Macarthur Wind Farm.
Its opponents claim the 140 turbine generators are affecting their health and that local land has been devalued.
About 40 objectors, including some from interstate, protested as Premier Denis Napthine officially opened the project on April 12.
However, Ms Cook said most protesters were from areas outside Macarthur.
“Their allegiance is to other towns,” she told The Standard yesterday.
“I would say most local residents have accepted the wind farm and are not bothered by it. With Mount Eccles nearby and now having the largest wind farm in the southern hemisphere, Macarthur should start attracting the tourist trade it deserves.
“While we didn’t gain the boost we expected during construction phase it’s up to us now to make the most of it operating.”
Mr Officer, who is a founding member of VicWind and hosts several turbines on his property, said wind farms provided a fresh income source for farmers, especially when the rural economy was depressed.
“Hosting a wind farm provides a reliable base income on my investment in farm land and complements my existing agricultural operations,” he said. Mr Officer said he knew many other farmers who recognised the opportunity and were seeking to host wind farms.
VicWind’s co-ordinator Andrew Bray said with 20 permanent jobs for locals the wind farm was the single biggest employer in the district.
“Research estimates the Macarthur and nearby Oaklands wind farm projects have increased gross regional product by more than one per cent or $66.8 million a year,” Mr Bray said.
“Wind projects with permits to proceed in Wannon would deliver around four times this amount again.”
Mr Tehan has called for an independent study to definitively say whether the large numbers of turbines lead to health problems.