Making their voice heard at GNEC

Guardians of Nooramunga Coastal Communities members outside The Wedge during the Gippsland New Energy Conference on Thursday. Photo: Tom Parry

This story first appeared in the Gippsland Times on Friday, August 12

With the Gippsland New Energy Conference (GNEC) currently underway in Sale, one conservation group is hoping to air their concerns about wind turbines with local stakeholders.

Guardians of Nooramunga Coastal Communities members placed themselves outside The Wedge on Thursday morning as attendees made their way into the venue.

The non-profit group, based in Yarram, is dedicated to promoting, protecting and preserving the natural landscapes of and near the coastline.

“We’re not opposed to wind turbines per se,” president Alan McDonald told the Gippsland Times, acknowledging that he supported Australia’s transition to renewable energy.

“What we’re opposed to is the size and location of these turbines.”

Members are particularly concerned about the proposed Gelliondale Wind Farm, and the impact it will have on local the region’s birdlife.

The Gelliondale project is being developed by Synergy Wind, which has publicly confirmed it will build 16 turbines as part of the project.

Synergy Wind expects the turbines to be “up to” 250 metres high, with the blades reaching 170m in diameter.

Guardians of Nooramunga argues that the turbines will pose a threat to birds that migrate along the coast, such as the white-bellied sea eagle and gang-gang cockatoo.

To protect those species, the group is proposing a conservation zone along the Gippsland coast that would prohibit turbines from being built within five kilometres of the high-tide watermark.

Mick Ryan and David Matthews were among a dozen people rallying against AusNet’s proposal to build new overhead powerlines.
Photo: Tom Parry

“We’ve got these special areas that are not used for farming – basically wetlands or bush areas,” Mr McDonald explained.

“The only way you can protect them, and… the flora and fauna that’s there, is by making sure that the turbines are located away from those zones.”

He argued that the proposal is “the simplest way of imposing restrictions (because) everyone knows where they stand.”

Synergy Wind was approached for comment.

Meanwhile, the transmission infrastructure that carries the power generated by turbines is also causing concern.

A separate group gathered at The Wedge voicing their objections to overhead transmission towers, purported to be AusNet’s preferred option for connecting future offshore wind farms to the national grid.

Spokesperson Ian Crooke said the group was making people aware of their discomfort with new powerlines going above ground – “we’d like (powerlines) to either go underground, or on an existing easement from BassLink to Loy Yang.”.

The Gippsland New Energy Conference is the first event of its kind in the region, bringing together business leaders and government representatives to discuss renewable energy opportunities.

The forum began at The Wedge on Thursday, August 11 with speeches from Wellington Shire Council Mayor Ian Bye and the Victorian Minister for Environment and Climate Action, Lily D’Ambrosio.

The two-day event concluded on August 12.