Collector Wind Farm, PAC Hearing, Friends of Collector Submission

The Friends of Collector (FOC) put in a detailed submission to the New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission members, focusing particularly on property devaluation, noise and health.

With respect to health, the FOC had this to say:

71. Whilst the FOC proposes to leave detailed submissions on issues of health to others, it is nevertheless appropriate to briefly address three limited but important matters relating to the issue of health impacts. The need to address those matters arises because the assessment of potential health impacts suffers from a similar deficiency as the PVIA – namely inappropriate reliance on out-dated information.

72. First, this Commission must understand that it cannot rely upon the National Health and Medical Research Council’s public statement from 2010, to the effect that there is no published scientific evidence linking wind farms and adverse effects on human health either for the conclusions it expresses or for the general proposition that wind farms have no adverse effects on human health. The NHMRC statement (including the associated literature review) is out-of-date, is currently under review, and has been the subject of express qualification by the head of the NHMRC (Professor Warwick Anderson), who admitted in the course of his testimony to the Commonwealth Senate on 31st March 2011 that the NHMRC had (by March 2011) become aware of published articles on the subject to an effect contrary to that of the Public Statement. We note particularly the following exchange between Senator Fielding and Professor Anderson:

“Senator FIELDING—you are making some, I think, rightly qualified statements that we have to take a precautionary approach. It seems to me that precaution may not be being taken because everyone is putting a very large weight on the NHMRC’s rapid review statement and saying that there are no adverse health impacts from living near wind turbines and everyone is just approving them on that basis. That is of huge concern to me.

“Prof Anderson—I know that the headline on that public statement says that, but the document does not say that. It did say that there was no published scientific evidence at that stage to positively link the two. That is a very different thing to saying that there are no ill effects and we do not say that there are no ill effects. We definitely do not say it that way….”

Current state of scientific literature

73. Secondly, this Commission must understand that it is simply wrong to say that there is no published peer-reviewed scientific evidence linking the operation of wind farms to adverse effects on human health. To the extent that this Commission may have received evidence to the contrary, that opinion was mistaken. In this regard, we note that the PAC’s report on the Bodangora wind farm determination records that:

“[o]n 22nd August, 2013 the Commission met with NSW Health representatives Professor Wayne Smith, Director Environmental Health Branch and Dr Jeremy McAnulty, Director Health Protection, NSW. NSW Health was very clear in its advice, which is consistent with that of the National Health and Medical Research Council – that there is no published scientific evidence to link wind turbines with adverse health effects.”

74. The advice provided to the members of the PAC charged with the determination of the Bodangora wind farm application by NSW Health was wrong. To the (obvious) extent that the PAC relied upon that advice it was misled into serious error. Whilst there may, of course, be valid differences of opinion as to the weight of the published scientific evidence, (a qualitative analysis), there can be no doubt that there is published scientific evidence supportive of the view that wind farms do have adverse health effects upon some exposed persons.

75. The provision of inaccurate advice to the PAC by an officer of the NSW Government who has been involved in the scientific debate regarding wind farms for several years, and who either knew or should have known the relevant advice to be wrong, is a very serious matter. For present purposes, its significance is the caution that it means must be exercised in relation to any advice received by this Commission to similar effect. If this Commission has received similar advice from NSW Health, it is incorrect and should not be accepted. There is, on any view, a significant question in relation to the impacts of wind farms upon human health that has yet to be definitively answered.

Cherry Tree VCAT Determination

76. Thirdly, this Commission should have regard to the recent interim decision of the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal in the matter of the Cherrytree wind farm in which the members of the Tribunal refused to approve the proposed wind farm pending further investigations in light of the evidence with which they were presented that indicated that wind farms did have adverse health effects. The Tribunal notably stated:

“There is evidence before the Tribunal that a number of people living close to wind farms suffer deleterious health effects. The evidence is both direct and anecdotal.

In some cases the impacts have been of such gravity that residents have been forced to abandon their homes.

On the basis of this evidence it is clear that some residents who live in close proximity to a wind farm experience the symptoms described, and that the experience is not simply imagined” (emphasis added)

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