The EIS results are in – but what do they (really) mean?

On Wednesday the 25th of Jan 2023 the Department of Planning and Environment released the results of the EIS for Winterbourne Wind, on the 31st of Jan 2023 a number of postal submissions were added to the portal. As at the 31st of Jan there are now a total of 947 submissions.

The EIS results have the position as Support, Object or Comment as well as the Name of the person or organisation making the submission. Those making a submission can also choose to withhold their name from publication, and their location.

The initial and casual reading of these numbers land as follows…

Submissions by Everyone  
Total submissions supporting the project49752%
Total submissions objecting to the project43846%
Total submission commenting on the project121%

We decided to look a little deeper into where the submissions were coming from and found that 526 came from the New England Region, and there were 419 from outside the New England. When we looked at these stats, the numbers start to turn.

Submissions by those in New England  
Submissions supporting the project15129%
Submissions objecting to the project36870%
Submission commenting on the project82%
Submissions by those outside New England  
Submissions supporting the project34683%
Submissions objecting to the project6916%
Submissions commenting on the project41%

We start to see that within the New England there is substantially more opposition than support.

Next, we also removed submissions where a name was withheld. This is likely to filter out any fake submissions, although obviously there were many genuine submissions of support or objection that may also get disregarded. We also decided to include some analysis of supporters who had a financial interest in the project, based on our understanding of the involved landowners and Walcha Wind Pty Ltd shareholders and their families.

Submissions by those in New England  
Named Support8123%
Named support with family pecuniary interest4613%
Named support with no family pecuniary interest3510%
Named Object27175%
Named Comment72%

One again we land back at around the infamous 75% of locals who oppose the project, this is supported by the Voice for Walcha October 2022 Survey, and the last Vestas survey from the 2022 Walcha Show published in the EIS.

We are planning on looking into the submissions in more detail, but many of the supporting responses make no reference to any of the specifics of the Winterbourne project, or the EIS, but are of a very general nature and are more in support of renewables and the transition away from fossil fuels than anything specific to the Winterbourne project. Many also referred to the benefits to the town that may be associated with the project, and a some acknowledged that the income for landowners will help with family succession.
There were also some supporting submissions that raised issues regarding code of conduct, traffic movements, decommissioning and lighting. In general the supporting submissions were several sentences to paragraphs.

On the other hand the opposing submission by Voice for Walcha contained 125 pages of mostly text, referencing issues found in the Winterbourne EIS, and the many of the public opposing submissions show a good understanding of the EIS and the project.

They highlight the impacts on biodiversity and the $64million offsets the developer is happy to pay for the destruction of trees and the damage to flora and fauna adjacent to the National park. They highlight the communities concerns to the impacts on roads, the lack of research and care in details around the projects demand for water and gravel. They question where the 400 jobs will come from and where they will live. The  also question if the community benefit fund will create an economic lifeline to an already prosperous community. They question the impacts to health with noise, bisphenol in blades and toxic gases in the gearboxes. They question the cumulative impacts of up to 660 turbines or 5 additional projects in the small community of Walcha.

We encourage you to have a read of the submissions on the NSW planning portal and if you would like to read the community submission it can be found on the Voice for Walcha’s web site or on page 5 of the EIS submissions on the Planning Portal.

We are very proud of the Walcha community for the effort and time that has been put into the submissions to the Planning Department. There has been a great effort made to understand the project, and to relate their submission to the EIS, as well as identifying the many shortcomings of the project. The sheer number of objections, combined with the quality of the comments made within each of them, appears to be unprecedented on the Planning Portal. The community of Walcha should be very proud of the quality of this response. We certainly are. It is important for everyone to understand, following recent feedback from the Panning Department, that the quality of the submission, as well as the address of the person making the submission, is very important when measuring the relevance of the submission. When considering the attached analysis, this is very encouraging, and points to a high level of scrutiny on the project.


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