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A blessing or a curse?

Saturday, 24th March, 2012

TUBULENT TIMES: Silverton publican Peter Price hopes the wind farm on the Barrier Ranges won’t destroy the town’s livelihood. TUBULENT TIMES: Silverton publican Peter Price hopes the wind farm on the Barrier Ranges won’t destroy the town’s livelihood.

By Paula Doran

Since 2007 the Silverton Wind Farm has been an idea - a disturbing vision at worst, a potential revenue earner at best - for those in the tiny town better known for art, film and sunsets than mighty sky-high turbines.

For graziers like Naomi Schmidt from Eldee Station, the AGL takeover brings with it uncertainty, and perhaps even more frustration in the management of her family’s pastoral and tourism interests. 

“One of the greatest impediments to the expansion of our business has been the wind farm development,” said Mrs Schmidt.

Four grazing properties have been affected by the half-billion dollar development.  

In a State Government first, during the height of the tussle with Epuron as it sought access to the valued windy plains, the Government allocated a special purpose lease in a victory for wind farmers versus sheep.

In all the wind farm will take up 450 square metres of now flourishing Western Division station country. Turbine construction will begin in the Barrier Ranges next year, according to AGL.

But for Naomi Schmidt, the reality of turbines moving into the outback neighbourhood means more complications for Eldee.  

“The wind farm development is supposed to operate side-by-side with our established land use and add to our income streams but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The ongoing costs and resource drains on our business have been very high.

“About a month ago we asked for consent from Silverton Windfarm Development Pty Ltd on the leasehold area that we will share in the future for facilities specifically related to tourism.  

“That consent was not given so it looks like we have wasted a lot of our time,  money and effort because we are going to have to go back to the start and resubmit all over again to the new owners.”

At the Silverton Hotel publican Peter Price is similarly low on optimism at the takeover. 

“The general feeling of the Silverton residents is still if we had a choice it would be best to take it somewhere else,” he said.

“AGL had a meeting with some residents from Silverton a few weeks back when they were considering their purchase options and on the face of that meeting they seemed much more approachable in the concerns of Silverton than Epuron, but time will tell if the construction phase starts.”

Mr Price said the township has major concerns, amongst them visual and noise pollution and the impediment of turbine transport on the one road from Broken Hill.  

“We exist on the tourism trade and coaches etcetera that work to timetables could look somewhere else if they are restricted too much,” he said.

“If tourists can’t get in on that road, all the good work in promoting Silverton as a destination could be brought undone.”

When the AGL project is complete, there will likely be more turbines than residents in Silverton.  

Despite promises of economic riches from increased employment at the project Naomi Schmidt is not exactly tap dancing with excitement. 

“I am not sure what the benefits if any will be for the local community. I would imagine that much of the wind farm specific knowledge and skill will be outsourced.”

And what of the pristine landscape that’s drawn film makers and tourists in flocks?  

“Visitors tell me the real outback doesn’t start until you leave Broken Hill but that landscape is now going to be changed forever,” said Mrs Schmidt.

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