Wind farm neighbour payments called "hush money"

Against: Robert McCosh of Hawkesdale stands near the planned site for a wind turbine,  just over a kilometre from his house in the background. Picture: Morgan Hancock

Against: Robert McCosh of Hawkesdale stands near the planned site for a wind turbine, just over a kilometre from his house in the background. Picture: Morgan Hancock

Hawkesdale farmer Robert McCosh calls it “hush money”.

Wind energy advocates call it spreading the benefits of wind farms further among local communities.

What they are talking about is the neighbour agreements offered by the proponent of the 26-turbine Hawkesdale wind farm to landholders adjacent to the turbines.

Mr McCosh said the neighbour agreements were further heightening tensions between those willing to take money from the wind farms and those who weren’t.

He has been offered $8500 a year plus a $2000 initial payment by Union Fenosa not to object to the turbines, one of which will be just over a kilometre from his house and directly in sight from his kitchen window. He won’t be taking any money because he said the turbines would devalue his property.

Mr McCosh, 78, has lived on his grazing property on the Woolsthorpe-Heywood Road for 74 years, and said he would be surrounded on three sides by turbines.

He would have three from the Hawkesdale wind farm within two kilometres of his house and another one from the 20-turbine Woolsthorpe wind about 1.6kms to the east.

His wife Margaret said she was heartened about the strong opposition expressed to wind farms at a community meeting in Hawkesdale last week.

“Hawkesdale has woken up that they will be in trouble,” she said.

Australian Wind Alliance national coordinator Andrew Bray said he believed the neighbour agreements were “reasonable”.  Wind farms were a large feature on landscapes and as many locals as possible should share in their benefits, he said. 

Mr Bray also hit back at opponents of the wind farm proposed for Willatook, west of Hawkesdale, who have sent letters threatening legal action to landholders if they host turbines for that project.

Mr Bray said such letters were “a standard tool organised by anti-wind farm lobby groups like the Waubra Foundation and Landscape Guardians and are designed to frighten”.

“On the flimsiest of evidence, the letters claim a raft of impacts that may or may not occur if the wind farm is built.”

Mr Bray said none of the letters had ever led to a legal claim being lodged, which suggested they had no legal basis.

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