A COLLECTOR residents group is proposing to secede the village from their local government area, such is their unhappiness about a wind farm development, among other complaints.
"Collector is a third-world village in Upper Lachlan Shire," said Friends of Collector member Frank Ross. "It does not get any services from the council.
"They mow the lawns before the Pumpkin festival, fill the odd pothole and take away the garbage, but that's about it." In fact, Collector residents felt so left out by Upper Lachlan that they were signing a petition to join the Goulburn Mulwaree council area instead, Mr Ross said. "We are putting a submission into the Boundaries Commission," he confirmed.
"Collector people feel more a part of Goulburn: we go to Goulburn or Canberra to shop."
The Collector Wind Farm was approved in 2013, but final modifications have been pin-balled between the developer, the community, Upper Lachlan Shire Council and the Department of Planning ever since. To date, there is no agreement in place as to whom the wind farm will sell its power.
The NSW Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) has approved modifications to the wind farm of 55 turbines, each standing 150m tall with blades 117m in diameter. The turbines are planned to straddle the escarpment above the village of Collector, with the closest turbine being about 3.5km from the Bushranger Hotel, "as the crow flies".
The most recently approved modifications include changes to access roads, blade length, noise compliance and biodiversity.
Mr Ross said the group was not impressed with the final approval. "No one in Collector wants this, apart from those getting the turbines," he said.
"There have been two community surveys and 80 per cent said they did not want it.
"There [are] going to be 1200 vehicle movements a week up on the hill during the construction. The vegetation on top of the escarpment will be trashed under the weight of all of these movements and construction. As the crow flies, the closest turbine is about 3.5km from the Bushranger Hotel and the turbines will be packed in like sardines."
Fellow Friends of Collector member Rodd Pahl said he was disappointed by the approval. "We are very disappointed that the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) did not put serious constraints on what is a project that no one wants, outside the developer and six people in the community," he said.
"[At least] the PAC has insisted on the developer [RATCH] having a 24-hour noise-monitoring complaint phone line. This is a good step, because they have a history of pigeon-holing complaints."
The NSW PAC determination reads:
“Condition C3 requires the proponent to set up a 24-hour telephone number and provide a postal and email address to receive and reply to correspondence from the community for the life of the project.”
Mr Pahl said this meant the PAC had accepted the community’s concern that RATCH was unlikely and unreliable to comply with noise conditions.
“It highlights that the community has valid concerns about RATCH’s inclination not to comply with conditions laid down.
This is a big red flag and clearly the PAC has listened to the community’s concerns on this,” he said.
Mr Ross said the community was also annoyed that vehicles involved in the construction, including utes and small trucks, had been deliberately prevented from coming back down the Collector-Gunning Rd to get food and accommodation in the village.
“All vehicle movements have to go in and out of the northern entrance off the Hume Highway, but Collector is only about 10km from the work site via the Collector-Gunning Rd,” he said.
Upper Lachlan Shire has been managing the Community Enhancement Fund, but the community wanted it managed through perpetual trustees to benefit the village, Mr Ross said.
“[The council] is getting $200,000 a year from this wind farm and we want some of this money to flow back to Collector, not siphoned off to Gunning and Crookwell,” he said.