Wind farm fight heads to umpire

Daniel MercerThe West Australian

A State planning watchdog is set to rule within days on a proposal to build one of WA's biggest wind farms on valuable farmland near Kojonup, threatening to reopen wounds that have split the tight-knit town.

Moonies Hill Energy wants to build a 74-turbine wind farm costing at least $200 million as part of long-held plans to capitalise on the Federal Government's renewable energy target.

Each turbine would be 160m tall to the tip of the blade at its highest point - the equivalent of Perth's QV1 building - and the farm would produce enough electricity for 90,000 homes.

But the plan has fractured the small Wheatbelt community of Kojonup, where residents are worried about the project's effects on people's health and their ability to farm.

After the project was first knocked back by the Great Southern development assessment panel - which vets all major proposals in the region - Moonies Hill won the right to have it re-heard.

The panel will decide whether to reject or approve the project tomorrow, with opponents conceding their battle will be all but lost if the wind farm gets the go-ahead.

Roger Bilney, a fifth-generation Kojonup farmer spearheading a campaign against the proposal, said any approval from the Great Southern DAP would be disappointing given its earlier, albeit split, dismissal.

Mr Bilney said the panel's grounds for rejection in February had not changed - namely that the project was inconsistent with the land's primary use of broadland farming.

Mr Bilney also claimed Moonies Hill failed to negotiate in good faith with neighbouring property owners.

"They've just said, 'no, we're going to take the commercial risk, which is we'll build them there, and if you build a house there in the future, you'll have to take us on and take us to court'," he said.

Attempts to get a response from Moonies Hill were unsuccessful but the company has previously argued the proposal fits within State planning laws while pointing out its economic and environmental benefits.

The company's website says the wind farm will cut emissions equivalent to removing 93,000 cars from the roads.

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