The Abbott-Turnbull government-appointed National Wind Farm Commissioner has told people raising concerns about medical issues associated with wind farms that they should go see a doctor before blaming wind farms for their health issues.

In his annual report released at the end of last month, National Wind Farm Commissioner Andrew Dyer said that all the complaints to his office regarding health issues people believed to have been caused by wind farms operating near their home were anecdotal.

“It has therefore been difficult to confirm whether or not the stated health conditions reported by complainants are a direct result of the wind farm’s operations or from some other cause,” he said.

Dyer said it was a concern that residents might fail to seek proper medical advice for a treatable condition because they might incorrectly assume that whatever was wrong with them is the fault of a wind farm. 

“Affected residents may need to seek appropriate medical treatment for their health conditions as well as seek ways to resolve their concerns,” he said.

Dyer said his office had received complaints about health impacts from wind farms, including sleep disturbance, headaches, ear-aches, tinnitus, high blood pressure, sight impairment, diabetes, nausea and fatigue, but he said “debate continues” over whether wind farms cause physiological harm to residents living nearby.

Dyer recommended that doctors who identified links between a patient’s health condition and proximity to a wind farm should report back to government.

As of the end of 2016, the National Wind Farm Commissioner’s office had received 90 complaints about wind farms, with the majority of the complainers raising issues related to the noise made by the farms, or the perceived health implications.

Of the 90, 42 complaints were related to proposed wind farms,while 46 were for wind farms already in operation and two were just general wind farm complaints. Victorians complained most about wind farms, with 24 complaints relating to Victorian wind farms, as compared to 16 for South Australia, and six in New South Wales.

The majority of the complaints were finalised by either more information being provided to address concerns or the matter not progressing. Only two complaints resulted in a settlement between the operators and the complainant.

Dyer made a number of other recommendations to wind farm operators to help reduce the number of complaints, including by properly managing negotiations and consultations with the land owners, neighbours and the local community. He has suggested that developers could set up shop fronts in town centres with information about the proposed wind farms, and provide as much transparency over the development as possible to ease community concerns.

Peter Fray

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