THE Nundle business community is concerned the town’s annual 100,000 tourists could be blown away by a $600-million wind farm proposal.
However, a local renewable energy expert encouraged the town to keep an open mind, pointing to the increase in tourism wind farms have brought to other towns.
The Nundle Business Tourism and Marketing Group, who represents about 25 local businesses, has voted to oppose the wind farm, which would see 98 wind turbines, standing at 220m tall, line 20km of ridgeline between Nundle and Hanging Rock.
Group spokesman and DAG Sheep Station owner John Krsulja said market research had identified the region’s distinctive mountain range as the community’s point of difference.
“The Hills of Gold are of high scenic value, and we have been told the project will have a high visual impact,” Mr Krsulja said.
“Hanging Rock and Nundle have strong existing tourism businesses, jobs, and economic activity attracting more than 100,000 visitors from 30 countries to annual events, weddings, country music concerts, craft retreats, and camping at Fossickers’ Tourist Park, Sheba, and Chaffey Dams.
“After respectfully hearing positions for and against the project the community listed advantages and disadvantages of the proposed wind farm, and the disadvantages were more extensive than the advantages.”
Uralla-based renewable energy expert Adam Blakester said there were several places where tourism had increased as a consequence of wind farms.
“They’ve used them as attractions in themselves, particularly for the growing walking-based tourism market,” Mr Blakester said.
“Musselroe in Tasmania has incorporated tourism walks and lookout points in its wind farm, and Albany wind farm in Western Australia has done the same.”
Tasmania’s Woolnorth wind farm is part of a guided tour of Cape Grim, while in New Zealand, the Wellington and Te Apiti wind farms are popular tourist attractions.
Mr Blakester stressed he wasn’t dismissing the concerns of residents, but encouraged them to remain open minded to the “once-in-a-generation opportunity”.
“I don’t want to put Nundle in a pressure cooker, I appreciated how big a decision this is for the community,” he said.
“I think the economic benefits this development could bring to the Nundle region are quite extraordinary.
“It's a question of how it is done, how the project is going to genuinely enhance the environment, economy and community to be an overall positive thing.”
Project developers, Wind Energy Partners, will hold two community meetings later this week – one at Nundle Memorial Hall on Thursday, and another at Hanging Rock community hall on Friday. Both start at 6.30pm.
Wind Energy Partners have been contacted for comment.