ABC Radio – AM Program Damaging Health Effects of Wind Farms

February 19, 2010

Samantha Hawley reports for ABC AM on the concern amongst residents about the damaging health effects of wind turbines.


TONY EASTLEY: The Environment Minister Peter Garrett last night enjoyed some respite from the controversy surrounding the Government’s troubled home insulation scheme.

At a community cabinet meeting in Ballarat insulation wasn’t mentioned but members of a small community on the outskirts of the city did have an environmental axe to grind.

Farmers from nearby Waubra turned up to protest against a local wind farm, which they claim is making them sick and forcing families to leave their homes.

It’s an issue dividing the small Victorian community, as AM’s Samantha Hawley reports.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: It’s unclear whether they were applauding his ministerial or rock star status but Peter Garrett is certainly welcome in Victoria’s Ballarat.

KEVIN RUDD: Peter Garrett, the Minister for the Environment.


SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Kevin Rudd and his Cabinet Ministers were there to take questions from the community.

Dodgy insulation didn’t raise a mention. It was an environmental issue of another sort that was causing tensions inside and outside the school hall.

(Sound of protest noise)

They were protesting about the nearby Waubra wind farm on the outskirts of Ballarat.

BELINDA WHEEL: My name is Belinda Wheel. Mr Rudd, residents are suffering from sleep deprivation, ah, health problems due to wind turbines sited too close to home.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The Environment Minister told the gathering it’s more of a state issue, although he has proposed national wind farm guidelines.

And there was this from Kevin Rudd:

KEVIN RUDD: I don’t think it is beyond our wit as a nation to get this balance right.

BERNI JANSSEN: If there had not been a problem we would not be speaking out.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Berni Janssen lives about three kilometres from the Waubra wind farm, which began operating last year.

BERNI JANSSEN: Within weeks of the last ones being turned on I started getting headaches, started getting heart palpitations.

DONALD THOMAS: Mostly ear pressure, headaches, heart palpitations, high blood pressure.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Donald Thomas lives about three kilometres from the wind farm.

DONALD THOMAS: Before the wind mill started operating there was none of this.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: It’s a similar story from Rod Neal. His parents Noel and Janine have left their farm to live in Ballarat.

ROD NEAL: I go out there and work and I’m lucky to work out there for half a day before I’ll, oh well I’ll get a headache pretty much straight away.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Rod Neal says he thinks the health side effects could be caused by low frequency noise or a change in air pressure.

But it’s an issue dividing the local community.

Doug Hobson, who’s paid by the wind farm company Acciona to operate five turbines on his property, says he’s had no problems.

DOUG HOBSON: I work around them every day, work right up to the base of them. They haven’t affected my life.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: Acciona wasn’t available for comment. In the past it has said it doesn’t believe there are any adverse health impacts.

Last week the company bought a property from one of its most vocal critics who is now subject to a confidentiality agreement.

Berni Janssen says selling up is not an option for her family.

BERNI JANSSEN: I couldn’t move from here. We’ve spent 30 years building this place.

TONY EASTLEY: Waubra resident Berni Jannsen ending Samantha Hawley’s report.