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Seymour residents concerned by wind farm proposal

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By Colin MacGillivray

Residents near Seymour have banded together to ensure their voices are heard after the emergence of plans to build what would be Victoria’s largest wind farm in the area.

The Stock and Land reported in May plans by Italian company FERA to build a 600-megawatt wind farm between Seymour and Ruffy, with suggestions it could feature up to 80 200-metre tall wind turbines.

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In response to the reports, Strathbogie tablelands residents organised a meeting with representatives from FERA Australia, a wholly owned subsidiary of FERA Srl Italy, in July.

Some landowners in the area reported being approached by FERA to discuss hosting wind turbines, but plans for the wind farm were not publicly known until media reports.

More than 80 residents met again at the end of July to discuss the plans among themselves, forming a Strathbogie Tableland Wind Farm Task Force.

Task force spokesman Rob Jamieson, a Ruffy resident, said the group was generally opposed to the project, with concerns about its potential social and environmental impacts.

While FERA representatives estimated the wind farm would support between 200 and 250 jobs during construction and 10 to 15 ongoing jobs once completed, Mr Jamieson said residents still had issues with the proposal.

“One important concern … is the impact of this project on the community’s social fabric. There are many examples where the outcomes of similar projects have been socially destructive and divisive,” he said.

“The economics associated with this project are questionable and may well leave this community with a confronting legacy.

“It is important to point out that the community was, in general, understanding of the need to transition to alternative forms of energy generation.

“We are however strongly questioning the suitability of the location for this very large industrial infrastructure.”

Mr Jamieson rejected the idea that the group were NIMBYs – an acronym for not in my back yard –but felt obliged to protect an area that was ‘culturally significant, environmentally sensitive, ecologically diverse and a pristine location’.

He said the location was attractive to FERA because of its elevation and wind profile, proximity to main transmission power lines and larger landholdings.

He said FERA was eager to work with the community on the project, suggesting the establishment of a community benefit fund that could support local infrastructure projects such as mobile phone towers, CFA stations, schools, and other community facilities.

Landholders who agreed to host turbines on their properties would be offered an annual dollar amount or a percentage of power generated, whichever was greater.

The Australian Energy Market Operator, AEMO, website showed a proposal for a Seymour Wind Farm operated by FERA Australia with capacity to generate 600 megawatts, but both the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, DELPW, and Mitchell Shire Council said they had not received planning applications to build a wind farm in the area.

Mr Jamieson said the project was only in its preliminary stages as FERA consulted with landholders.

He said FERA representatives told him they planned to install wind monitoring equipment to evaluate the feasibility of a wind farm in late 2022 or early 2023, with planning and detailed design work to occur between 2023 and 2025.

The earliest estimate for construction on the wind farm to start was 2025, with the farm projected to take two years to build.

The Review requested a comment from FERA but received no response before yesterday’s print deadline.

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