22 August 2014, a bit of a gloomy sky in Goulburn NSW. For the Residents against Jupiter wind turbines (RAJwt), however, it was excitement and trepidation: the day of our protest at the Liberal Party fundraiser at the Southern Star Inn. Most importantly, NSW Premier Mike Baird and Minister for Planning Pru Goward, would be in attendance.
Gathering early outside on both sides of the road, were 50+ residents from both existing and proposed wind turbine farms. People wore t-shirts bearing different slogans:
Rural dwellers – Sacrificial Lambs For Wind Farms!
Justice For Rural People!
Wind Farms Not Wanted Here!
Wind Farms – The New Asbestos!
People had created their own placards making their own personal contribution. The Goward Gagged face masks were eagerly seized upon and some of us were brave enough to gaffer tape our mouths in sympathy! One of our party had copied a recording of the noise created by wind turbines and had hooked it up to a loudspeaker on the back of his ute – our 'secret weapon' was aurally ugly. One person had built a mini-wind turbine. That too was creative and eye catching.
Police and media were present. We got front page attention from the Goulburn Post under the title 'Baird's visit no breeze'. A photographer from The Land was also present as were journalists from the Goulburn Post, Torres Strait Times and radio 2GN.
On his way in, the Premier stopped and spoke to groups of protesters strategically placed on the footpath. Pru Goward who initially skirted behind us to enter the hotel, returned outside to greet the Premier and also spoke to a couple of protesters.
Ten of us wearing 'no wind turbine' t-shirts had paid to attend the lunch and in we went! In our t-shirts we stood out like sore thumbs. We felt that the mood around us was cautious but soon enough we realised that many were not in favour of wind turbines. We mingled, chatting to other guests, hearing their views and I guess, reassuring them we weren't going to disrupt the proceedings.
Lunch was a buffet and the line snaked around our table. Both the Premier and Pru Goward stopped and listened to our concerns. I bet the organisers hadn't planned that!
Then it was time for Q&A. Of the 6 or 7 questions, two were about wind turbines. Premier talked of dealing with those who do not comply with the guidelines in a ‘tough manner’ and that he would come down on them like a ‘ton of bricks’.
A question pointed out that Minister Stokes is attempting to have wind farm noise included under industrial noise guidelines, which is probably to our disadvantage. Pru said they would have the wind farm guidelines finalised after consultation with the community end 2014 beginning 2015, but was unclear to us whether this covered noise.
We also had opportunities on the way out to question the Premier and Minister -- and induct the Premier into the protest.
So, if the measure of an effective protest is getting the ear of the powers that be, I think this ticks the boxes. We have to remember though, that whatever politicians say one day, they can simply ignore that and play a different hand the next. That means this is just the beginning, albeit a good one. The Goulburn Post certainly thought it worth reporting the event.