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How many complaints is the Wind Farm Commissioner dealing with?

Senator RICE: You said before that you had had complaints from 42 concerned residents. How many actual complaints were there?

Mr Dyer: I will take that on notice to give you a precise number.

Senator RICE: Is it close to 42 or is it 10? What sort of magnitude of number of actual complaints have you received?

Mr Dyer: We have received inquiries on matters related to 12 wind farms from 42 residents.

Senator RICE: So for those 12 wind farms, were they 12 separate complaints?

Mr Dyer: Yes. You have situations where you might have a couple that are complaining about a wind farm. I have had circumstances where the couple have expressed to me that they want their complaints handled separately. That is why it takes some analysis to give you the precise number of complaint matters.

Senator RICE: But it is a smaller number than the 42?

Mr Dyer: Yes.

Senator RICE: You talked about how you have not yet gone out to speak with people who are supportive of wind farms. Can you talk us through what your proposed schedule for doing that sort of work is going to be.

Mr Dyer: Just to clarify, I think the question answered before was about community members that are supportive of wind farms. I certainly have spent some time with industry to establish relationships and understand their issues and challenges and I suspect that the wind farm industry is supportive of its industry. In terms of meeting with members community that are supportive of wind farms, I will have an ongoing schedule. I have got, I think, three days coming up in South Australia in early March and I will certainly make a point of meeting with both concerned residents and supportive residents.

Senator RICE: How are you going to identify the supportive residents? What is your process going to be?

Mr Dyer: Typically the wind farm operator or developer has a line of sight on those that are supportive of the project.

Senator RICE: Are you going to be publicly announcing that you are there as well and seeking people to meet with you through local papers or social media?

Mr Dyer: I expect so. As I say, I am still putting together the staff to handle these things. We have put up our interim website so we have got some presence. But to the extent that we can advertise our planned travel, we will certainly use those vehicles to promote that.

Senator RICE: You said you had three days available. When are those three days that you are going to be out there talking about this?

Mr Dyer: As I recall it is 1, 2 and 3 March.

Senator RICE: So it is only a couple of weeks away?

Mr Dyer: About three weeks.

Senator RICE: I just know that, in terms of contacting people, you need to give people some notice if you are going to get people to meet with you.

Mr Dyer: Sure.

Senator RICE: Of the complaints you have received so far, have you actually completed the process of any of those complaints as yet?

Mr Dyer: As I mentioned earlier, the most progressed ones are in the process of going to conciliation towards the end of this month.

Senator RICE: Do you think your process has been different or more effective than the state regulatory agencies that would otherwise have handled those complaints?

Mr Dyer: Complaints might be handled by a state agency or handled by the wind farm developer or operator. It depends on the matter how that is dealt with. I think in our case we will be working with very senior level people of government, with wind farm operators and developers.

Senator RICE: So the state regulatory agencies would not have been doing that?

Mr Dyer: If you are a member of the community in rural Australia, you may or may not know how to get access to the plan.

Senator RICE: No, but if it was the state regulatory agencies that were dealing with those complaints, they would be in contact with the senior levels of government.

Mr Dyer: One of the improvement opportunities I want to look at is to what degree state enforcement agencies need to be more involved with wind farm compliance and measurement.

Senator RICE: So one of your outcomes might be to beef up the state regulatory agencies rather than having them come to you; is that what you are saying?

Mr Dyer: An example might be a state environmental protection agency taking an active role in the compliance and monitoring of wind farms when there are issues that require that support.

Senator RICE: So why would you then need to have your office as well?

Mr Dyer: Clearly great success in this role is to be out of business.

Senator RICE: So you would see that as being a good outcome if the state regulatory agencies beefed up their operations so that you were not needed?

Mr Dyer: Yes.

Senator RICE: You said there are 12 wind farms at the moment, seven of which have not yet been built. Do you have a program of actually proactively looking at where there are planned wind farms and proactively going out and engaging with communities in those planned wind farm areas even before receiving complaints?

Mr Dyer: Yes. It is a vast network of stakeholders and developments and projects. I think there are approximately 15,000 megawatts of wind turbine projects in the current pipeline, so there is no shortage of sites and locations to go and visit. I think I have already counted up about 140 stakeholders and residents so far in this role, and we will continue that process.

Senator RICE: So you do have a plan to proactively to go and visit proposed wind farms even if there have not been complaints?

Mr Dyer: Yes.

Senator RICE: Is your agency going to be, or is it already, active in the area of public health research?

Mr Dyer: Public health research is not a part of our terms of reference, but we will liaise with the Independent Scientific Committee on Wind Turbines and the NHMRC on research that they will be undertaking.

Senator RICE: Do you see yourself encouraging more research to be done or using your findings to contribute to research?

Mr Dyer: The short answer is yes, to help formulate the scope of work and the relevance of the research to the community and the problems to solve.

Senator RICE: Thank you.

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