Evidence of property value brought up at Bald Hills Wind Farm court battle
Evidence provided by a farmer claiming that his property values declined after building a wind farm nearby cannot be used in a Victorian court case.
the main points:
- Evidence of property devaluation due to wind farm is discarded
- Noel Oren seeks $200,000 and other damages in Supreme Court case
- The civil trial is also served with 120 pages of handwritten evidence for the plaintiff
The revelation came on the sixth day of Possible historical case which saw more than 100 pages of handwritten notes about wind farm noise produced as new evidence.
Noel Oren and John Zacola are seeking damages from Bald Hills Wind Farm near Tarwin Lower in the state’s southeast, claiming that wind turbine noise is a nuisance.
Mr. Oren presented evidence this week in the Supreme Court’s civil trial regarding four properties he and his brother owned that border the wind farm.
The blocks were sold in 2015 and 2016 for a total of $3.53 million.
Mr. Oren continued to live in one property as a tenant until March 2018.
He claims that the total value of his property decreased by about $200,000 due to the construction of a wind farm nearby in 2015.
He is claiming this amount as compensation along with other damages due to excessive noise from the turbines.
The evidence given by Oren to prove the decline in the value of the farm was from the sale of neighboring properties.
However, on Tuesday, Judge Melinda Richards ruled that the evidence was inadmissible because it relied on a sale of nearby land rather than written evidence from an expert.
“The value of the land and the impact of the wind farm is a matter of expert opinion; it is not a matter that the court can put together,” Judge Richards said.
“Evidence for neighboring properties in June 2019 is not a logical proof and whether prices when sold in 2015 and 2016 were reduced due to wind farm noise.”
The wind farm legal team sought to remove this loss of property claim from the plaintiffs’ list of compensation.
Mr. Oren’s lawyer admitted that it was “unlikely that any better evidence would emerge” to substantiate the claim for loss of property value.
Pages of new guides found
In another development, 120 pages of Mr. Zakula’s handwritten notes were handed over to the court.
They recorded wind turbine noise from November 2015 to October 2018.
The notes included descriptions of the noises—some of which contained expletives—such as “It looks like a plane in the backyard.”
When asked why he had “written some swear words” on the log papers, Mr. Zakula said that by October 2016 he had become frustrated at the wind farm’s inaction over his persistent complaints.
The wind farm lawyers asked Mr. Zakula why he had not produced boxes of handwritten pages, which were stored in his spare room, earlier in the discovery process.
“I just didn’t think of anything handwritten,” said Zaccula.
He explained that he transferred information from handwritten log sheets to a spreadsheet or to a complaint letter to the wind farm on his computer.
He said, “I prepare my records in a formal manner; this is how I usually present the material for my complaints to Bald Hills Wind Farm.”
“I failed to tell my lawyer that I had the handwritten log papers. I apologize to the court if I caused any inconvenience.”
Under questioning by attorney Albert Dennelly, Mr. Zakula admitted that not all of the complaint letters and handwritten notes were consistent.
Neighbor denies wind farm speech
Another witness who appeared on Wednesday was farmer Don Fairbrother, who he and his wife Dorothy were the first plaintiffs in in a case against the wind farm.
They withdrew from the case before it even reached trial after accepting a financial settlement from the wind farm operators.
Mr. Fairbrother gave evidence to the remaining plaintiffs – Mr. Oren and Mr. Zacola – and admitted under questioning by attorney Edward Petroni that he had been against the wind farm being built since 2002.
But he denied that he wrote a letter to The Australian more than a decade ago criticizing the wind energy industry.
“This unexploded industry will never save the world. In the meantime, it is destroying bird species that are already under pressure,” said the letter that bears his name and is dated September 26, 2007.
But Mr Fairbrother told the court he had never written a letter to the editor of The Australian.
“I’ve never written this, it’s not mine.”
However, it was suggested that some of the text of the letter might have been taken from a submission he had written to various inquiries about the Bald Hills Wind Farm.
He emphasized that he was concerned about the impact of bird life, including the orange-billed macaw, which he often finds on his farm.
Mr. Fairbrother and his wife testified that the wind farm noise interrupted their sleep and they often got headaches when the noise was loud, with Mrs. Fairbrother said she takes medication regularly to help.
The trial is expected to continue until the middle of next week.