"We've invested a lot here. Not just us but all our neighbours in this area. It is prime agricultural land and it's a beautiful part of Mudgee and that is just going to be taken away."Anita Rusten
Opposition to a proposed solar farm project in the Mudgee region has stepped up a level with some locals gathering for a press conference for this morning, Friday, June 28 near the site of one of the proposed developments.
The development, referred to in application documents as the Burrundulla Mini Sustainable Energy Park, is located on the Castlereagh Highway, approximately five kilometres south-east of the Mudgee CBD (in the DA it is incorrectly described as being south-west of the town).
Anita and Craig Rusten, who moved to Mudgee from Parkes two and a half years ago and whose property sits adjacent to the land where the solar farm is set to be located say they are strongly against the development and are urging people who agree to make submissions to Council before the cutoff on July 5.
Speaking to the Mudgee Guardian at her family home, Anita Rusten says they first heard of the proposal to build a solar farm near their home from a representative from the company involved in the DA, IT Power Australia (ITP) who sent her a message to her personal account on Facebook Messenger.
"It's devastating for us that there has been no communication, there has been none from the landowners.
"We've invested a lot here. Not just us but all our neighbours in this area. It is prime agricultural land and it's a beautiful part of Mudgee and that is just going to be taken away," Mrs Rusten said.
The land where the solar farm is proposed to be built is owned by a local family and is located near the Burrundulla Wines business, also owned by the family.
Anita says it was them who approached the landowners first, after hearing about the development from the power company. Another resident from the area who asked not to be identified said that they still had not been officially notified of the development.
Anita and the unnamed resident outlined their list of reasons they oppose the solar farm development
"For starters, it's going to be noisy, we will hear it all day and we will hear it at nighttime. The panels actually make a noise when they turn," Mrs Rusten said.
"According to the DA, it's up to 30 decibels at night, the beep of a reversing truck is around 75 [decibels] and in the construction stage it would get up to about 60 decibels,"
"This is our main entrance from Sydney...to think that you're going to have semi-trailers out there during construction on a 100 km/h highway."
Anita and the unnamed resident said they have spoken to real estate agents in town who were able to echo their fears that the solar farm, if completed, would negatively affect their land values.
"There's land for sale around here, they [real estate agents] won't be able to sell them," Mrs Rusten said.
"I know there's a lot sales that have happened recently in this area and those people probably didn't know [about the DA] at the time,"
"No one is opposed to solar or renewable energy, this is just about the location. It has to be out somewhere where it's not affecting properties personally."
Anita pointed to a property across the highway, close to Mount Frome.
"I keep thinking about this family up here on the hill, they're going to be looking down at solar panels and they'll get a glare. Massive."
The Mudgee Guardian reached out to Burrundulla Wines owner and owner of the land of the proposed development, Ted Cox - who is currently on leave - and received the following response:
In regards to your questions regarding the proposed solar farm, I believe that solar farming is a step in right direction for the future of this country and solar panel farming is the way forward.
"It would be a scar on the landscape."Andrew Palmer, Vice President of Mudgee Chamber of Commerce
I see it as a positive for Mudgee and its people and with time for the vegetation to be planted and grow around the proposed site, I see it blending into the landscape quite nicely.
Vice President of the Mudgee Chamber of Commerce, Andrew Palmer also weighed in on the debate, stating the official stance of the Chamber is one of support, but not at the proposed location.
"We are supportive of a solar plant coming to Mudgee, but we feel like that it is absolutely the wrong position for it," Mr Palmer said.
"It's an Industrial development on prime agricultural land and right on the doorstep of the Mudgee region, it would be the first and last thing a majority of tourists driving into town will see,"
"It would be a scar on the landscape,"
"We [the chamber] welcome to the opportunity to work with the developers to find an alternate location."