Moyne Shire Council on Notice, Breaches of Human Rights at AGL’s Macarthur Facility

Background

The Moyne Shire Council is the Responsible Authority for AGL’s Macarthur Wind Project in south western Victoria. The project was formerly owned by AGL and Meridian Energy, a company owned by the New Zealand Government. Meridian Energy were well aware of the possibilities of adverse health effects for neighbours in 2006, as evidenced in New Zealand contracts also containing non disclosure clauses.

Meridian subsequently sold their interest in the Macarthur Wind Development, and with the assistance of refinancing from Australian Taxpayers via the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and others, which enabled Meridian Energy to go and develop other wind turbine development sites, fully aware of the potential harm to human health from wind turbine acoustic emissions such as the Macarthur residents are now experiencing. Macarthur Wind Development is now owned by AGL and a number of other institutions.

The Macarthur wind project’s acoustic pollution has subsequently caused increasing numbers of the neighbours in the local community to suffer the chronic sleep deprivation and other health impacts which are well known to result from placing massive industrial machinery which emit excessive levels of infrasound and low frequency noise too close to human habitation, and too close to each other.

The consequences of wind turbines being sited too close together are well known to the wind industry and its acousticians, and in the case of Macarthur have been analysed by independent Acousticians Dr Malcolm Swinbanks and Mr Les Huson (see the appendix of the Waubra Foundation’s submission to the RET Review which contains an analysis by Dr Malcolm Swinbanks and comments from both Dr Swinbanks and Mr Les Huson).

These adverse health impacts being experienced by local Macarthur Wind Project Neighbours including particularly chronic sleep deprivation have been well publicised in the media, are now well known to responsible public officials in health, planning and noise pollution regulation bureaucracies and to Politicians at Federal, State and Local governments who have been made directly aware by some of the worst impacted residents.

Testimony from three Macarthur residents in the Cherry Tree Case, as well as confirmatory Expert Evidence from Mr Les Huson and additional testimony from wind turbine host David Mortimer no doubt contributed to the Cherry Tree Commissioners Wright and Liston finding in November 2013 that the adverse health effects reported by neighbours, including sleep disturbance, were real, and not imagined. Repetitive sleep disturbance will inevitably lead to chronic and prolonged sleep deprivation with well known serious adverse effects on physical and mental health.

In an act of reckless irresponsibility, the permitted height and power generating capacity of the proposed wind turbines at Macarthur was increased by the former Victorian Planning Minister Justin Madden with no re working of noise impact assessment. It is well known as a result of Professor Henrik Moller’s peer reviewed published research, using wind industry data, that more powerful wind turbines generate more of the damaging low frequency noise and infrasound as a proportion of total sound energy emissions, and therefore will predictably increase the adverse effects on the neighbours, euphemistically called “annoyance” by acoustic engineers. Even more reckless has been the current Victorian Minister for Planning’s amendments VC 113 which make it much easier for wind developers to achieve the same increase in power output by increasing the tower height and blade length of turbines with no requirement for noise assessments to be redone.

Professor Geoffrey Leventhall, UK Acoustic Engineer with a long career working in the field of low frequency noise, stated in the 2011 NHMRC Workshop that “noise annoyance” symptoms were the same as “wind turbine syndrome” symptoms, and that he had known about them “for years”. Present at the NHMRC Workshop in June 2011 in Canberra were Dr John Carnie, Dr Stephanie Williams and Dr Simon Slota Kan from the Victorian Department of Health. Dr Williams and Dr Slota Kan have both acknowledged the suffering of the Victorian residents to be real, at meetings in both Evansford, near Waubra, in April 2011, and subsequently in the Victorian Department of Health Offices in Melbourne, in October 2011.

Neighbours of the Macarthur wind project have been complaining of excessive noise, sleep disturbance and other disabling symptoms to AGL and to the Moyne Council since the turbines began operation. A population noise impact survey conducted in August 2013 by Mrs Anne Schafer has confirmed the adverse impacts on sleep and therefore health extend out to 8 – 9km, with reports from residents subsequently indicating impacts on sleep out to even greater distances.

The Waubra Foundation has warned each of the current Moyne Shire Councilors that they run the risk of being held personally accountable for knowingly allowing torture to continue, because of the explicit acknowledgement that prolonged sleep deprivation is a method of torture by the UN Committee Against Torture. The letter sent by the Waubra Foundation to the Moyne Shire Councilors and CEO is reproduced below.

Receipt of this letter and information has been acknowledged by the Moyne Shire Council CEO, Mr David Madden.

The Letter to Moyne Shire Council Officers

October 2, 2014

Mayor: James Purcell,
Councillors: Jim Doukas, Anthony Keane, Ralph Leutton, Jill Parker, Colin Ryan, Mick Wolfe
Chief Executive Officer: David Madden
Moyne Shire Council

Dear Officers of the Moyne Shire Council

We draw the Council’s attention to the Victorian Charter of Rights and Responsibilities, which states at Part 1, Section 4. “What is a Public Authority” – 4.e) “A Council within the meaning of the Local Government Act 1989 and Councillors and members of Council staff within the meaning of the Act”and Part 2. – “Human Rights” – 2.10. “Protection from torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”

We know from the numbers of complaints sent by ratepayers to the Council, and meetings which some Councillors have attended to hear the local residents speak of their experiences, that the desperate state of residents suffering ill health and exhaustion resulting directly from sleep deprivation from inappropriately sited wind turbines at the Macarthur wind project, is well known to members of the Council.

We understand that noise measurements by independent acousticians at the Macarthur wind project indicate that the project is unlikely to be compliant, even with the current inadequate planning and noise pollution guidelines in Victoria. The guidelines are skewed toward deployment of wind turbines rather than to protect rural communities from environmental noise pollution (see our letter to the Warrnambool Standard attached).

There are only two explanations: either the recent ‘compliance testing’ was inadequate (we call this faux compliance); or the information provided to us by independent acousticians is incorrect. Let us be generous and say at this point it is not possible to claim that full compliance has been established. Yet despite residents’ requests for time to study the results of the recent testing, and the opportunity to have those results reviewed by truly independent acoustician/s, all but two Council elected officials recently rushed to declare the Macarthur wind farm ‘compliant’ despite the SLR report’s stated concerns.

Councillors cannot claim they are unaware of the abrogation of their duty of care, especially the protection of Human Rights, and in particular their responsibility to ensure that affected residents are not actually being subject to torture, or cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, for which Councillors could one day be held responsible. If Councillors feel that they do not have sufficient understanding of the situation, or have become a Councillor in recent times, the package of documents attached provides an easy to read overview, and includes warnings issued to all authorities from time to time by the Foundation.

Some Councillors may take refuge in the Department of Health’s two statements “Wind farms sound and health – Technical Information” and “Community Information” and also equally false and misleading statements such as the AMA’s “Position Statement on Wind Farms and Health”.

Neither of these documents is backed by peer reviewed research or field work by acousticians, engineers or medical practitioners who are truly objective, and who do not have a financial, ideological or political bias towards favouring wind power.

The public health wind power protection cabal has also been falsely claiming that wind turbines cause no harm. As an example, the 2014 AMA position statement starts and ends with assertions about the benefits of wind power which is not within the professional expertise of medical practitioners to assess. It ignores the World Health Organisation’s many literature reviews which highlight the adverse health problems resulting from excessive night time environmental noise, such as sleep deprivation, which is well known to cause serious harm to physical and mental health. Sleep deprivation is the commonest reported problem.

In our opinion, and that of others including some eminent scientists who are experts in this field, the Victorian Department of Health material and the AMA position statement were both written with the assistance of one or more acoustical firms and public health “experts” who have far too close a relationship with the wind industry. Attempts to ascertain the identity of those who assisted staff from the Victorian Health Department and the AMA on their propaganda projects for the wind industry, and the actual identity and therefore the qualifications and conflicts of interest of the authors of these documents, have met with an absolute stone wall. This indicates the Victorian Dept of Health and the AMA have much to hide about the origins of their unbelievably incompetent, false, and dangerously misleading statements.

Councillors should not be misled by these documents nor by the NHMRC’s 2010 literature survey, the “Rapid Review” which was extensively and internationally criticized at the time it was issued. The subsequent 2014 NHMRC Systematic Literature Review was already out of date by two years when issued in February 2014, but did at least confirm the evidence of sleep deprivation, “annoyance” symptoms and poorer quality of life in the limited research literature considered. Other research published since the cut off date (of September 2012 for the 2014 Systematic Literature Review) has confirmed the adverse health effects, and the presence of excessive health damaging environmental lower frequency noise, especially with the larger wind turbines such as those at Macarthur. This is now being measured out to distances close to the ten kilometers the Waubra Foundation was highlighting in June 2011 in our Explicit Cautionary Notice (ECN). The ECN was sent to the Moyne Shire and other councils after it was issued.

The Waubra Foundation is ready to help the Council and Councillors make informed, equitable and safe decisions on wind turbine noise and health. We suggest you appoint an acoustician totally independent of income from the industry to pull together the whole information available on wind turbine noise testing at Macarthur and at other relevant sites, and that you properly educate yourselves on the known adverse serious health impacts, and your responsibilities as public authorities, designated in the Victorian legislation mentioned at the beginning of this letter.

A failure to seek expert acoustic advice, independent of the commercial interest of the wind industry will leave Councillors in the unfortunate position of having been party to the ongoing torture of rural residents, something which is expressly forbidden in section 10 of the Victorian Charter of Rights and Responsibilities. Elected officials at the local government level are clearly included in the definition of a “public authority”. Sleep deprivation is clearly acknowledged as a method of torture by both the UN Committee against Torture, and in litigation documented by the Physicians for Human Rights.

Articles 1, 2, and 4 of the UN Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, which Australia has signed, are clear. Public Officials who knowingly, and therefore intentionally, allow torture to occur or to continue shall be punishable for criminal offences. “Following orders” is no excuse, nor is being at war.

Yours sincerely,
Sarah Laurie
CEO, Waubra Foundation

Attachments:
Explicit Cautionary Notice
Explicit Warning Notice
Wind Turbines and Adverse Health Effects, June 2014
Wind Turbine Noise – a Simple Statement of Facts, August 2014
Environment Noise, Sleep Deprivation & Torture, September 2014
Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities
Commentary on Amendment to Victorian Planning Guidelines -VC113, August 2014
Waubra Foundation letter to the Warnambool ‘Standard’

Download the letter →