Cherry Tree VCAT Final Orders November 2013

Tribunal Members Wright and Liston handed down their decision on the Cherry Tree case. They upheld the wind developer’s appeal against the local council’s decision not to approve the Cherry Tree wind development. The Tribunal members did however confirm that some people who live in close proximity to wind turbines do experience adverse health effects, including sleep disturbance.

At paragraph 46 they stated:

The Tribunal has no doubt that some people who live close to a wind turbine experience adverse health effects, including sleep disturbance”

The Tribunal members then went on to say that “the current state of scientific opinion is that there is no causal link of a physiological nature between these effects and the turbine

Unfortunately the Tribunal members did not seem to understand the significance of the work by Kelley et al in the 1980’s in this respect, which was submitted to them. The Kelley 1985 paper together with the 1987 Kelley laboratory research provided very clear scientific evidence of direct causation of a range of physiological effects and symptoms which they called “annoyance”. Those annoyance symptoms included sleep disturbance.

The 1985 Kelley research was instead used by the Tribunal members to confidently assert that not many people would be adversely impacted by the operation of the Cherry Tree wind development.

The Tribunal members relied upon the discredited and heavily criticised 2010 NHMRC Rapid Review.

The Tribunal members also relied on the Victorian Department of Health report issued in late April 2013 which was strongly criticised by two of the leading researchers working in this area internationally. The two letters condemning the Victorian Health report written by Emeritus Professor Colin Hansen and Professor Alec Salt and Jeffrey Lichtenhan were made available to the Tribunal.

The Tribunal members also relied up on the NSW Health department’s false and misleading advice to the New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission members on 22nd August that there was “no peer reviewed published evidence” of adverse health effects from wind turbines. That advice from Professor Wayne Smith resulted in the Mt Bodangora wind development being approved. The Tribunal members had previously been given a number of the peer reviewed published studies from the Noise and Health journal which clearly showed the existence of disturbed sleep and adverse effects on quality of life and mental health, by Dr Daniel Shepherd (2011) and Dr Michael Nissenbaum (2012).

The implication from this decision by VCAT members Wright and Liston appears to be that it is acceptable to seriously damage the health of a certain (and unknown) percentage of the nearby population, because the current government planning policy in Victoria supports wind turbine development.

This decision is inconsistent with the instructions by the National Health and Medical Research Council to adopt a suitable precautionary approach, and in the opinion of the Waubra Foundation will inevitably lead to serious harm to human health for a significant proportion of the local population, if the Cherry Tree Wind Development is ever built.

Download VCAT’s Orders →

Australian NHMRC 2010 Rapid Review & critiques

Victorian Health Department report April 2013 & critiques – Professor Alec Salt and Professor Colin Hansen