18 December 2023

Emotions run high as Monaro residents face off against wind farm proponents

| Edwina Mason
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country plains at sunset

Internationally renowned contemporary artist Imants Tillers said putting a wind farm on the Monaro Treeless Plains near Cooma would destroy the qualities of the place forever. Photos: Libby Litchfield.

Monaro landholders have their slings aimed at an Australian energy developer planning to erect 25 colossal wind turbines across plains 11 kilometres south of Cooma.

The issue is already shaping up as a David vs Goliath battle, which last week became emotive during a public meeting in the Snowy Monaro town.

A crowd of more than 100 concerned Monaro residents made their overwhelming objection to the development clear when they confronted representatives of Sydney-based developer Someva Renewables at The Alpine Hotel in Cooma on Thursday night (14 December).

Considered a state-significant development – which generally means a development important to NSW for economic, environmental or social reasons – the Coonerang Wind Farm will see the construction of 266-metre wind turbines on the Monaro Treeless Plains beside the iconic Brothers Hills (Gugang).

READ ALSO Plain wrong: 150 residents meet to air opposition to Coonerang Wind Farm site

Brothers Hills, three ancient volcanoes, are significant landmarks on the Monaro landscape, named for the Ngarigo legend of two young brothers looking for their grandfather.

Not only have residents objected to the location of the wind farm, but the height of the turbines, which they claim to be as tall as Barangaroo – the tallest building in Sydney – and double the size of the nearby 130 m-tall Boco Rock Wind Farm towers.

Stage One of Boco Rock Wind Farm, consisting of 67 turbines generating 113MW of renewable energy, sits on ridgelines 10 km southwest of Nimmitabel and has been operating since 2015.

Coonerang Wind Farm is expected to generate 150MW of renewable energy.

One of the development opponents, Libby Litchfield, said the public meeting, attended by locals of all ages, had made it clear to Someva it could not have picked a more sensitive area for a wind farm.

“Many in attendance were from families of six and seven generations on the Monaro who had a real and deep connection to their landscape,” she said.


The 266 m wind turbines proposed for the Monaro Plain will be as tall as Barangaroo and double the size of the nearby 130 m Boco Rock Wind Farm towers.

The Litchfields are one of those families, having settled on the Monaro in the 1860s; their pastoral property “Hazeldean”, is foremost among Angus and Merino stud breeders in Australia.

“We had people aged their 80s and then teens and younger children, one of whom told Someva, ‘I represent future generations; we love our Monaro landscape and we’re totally against this proposal to ruin it’,” Mrs Litchfield said.

She said the Monaro was a landscape of national significance, immortalised by generations of famous Australian artists including, recently, actor/writer/director Leah Purcell, who used the Monaro Treeless Plains as a location during filming of The Drover’s Wife – The Legend of Molly Johnson in 2021.

READ ALSO Film shot in Snowy Mountains to premiere at prestigious South by Southwest festival

Internationally renowned contemporary artist and Cooma local, Imants Tillers, said it was rare to find such a special place anywhere in Australia, let alone the world.

“To put wind farms here would destroy the qualities of the place forever,” he said. “It would be a cruel desecration, an outrageous act of vandalism.”

An impassioned speech by another local, Pam Shelley, echoed the general feeling in the room, speaking of “the short-term gain for the developers at the expense of ruining our magnificent Monaro landscape”.

Biodiversity and property price impacts were also raised as concerns and Mrs Litchfield said several locals told the meeting Someva had yet to consult them or even make contact.

Mrs Litchfield said the meeting ended with a motion to “Reject the Coonerang Wind Facility proposal” – one she said was met with loud applause.

She said community awareness was a critical next step in opposing the project and pressure would be applied to the State and Federal governments.

“The developers need to go elsewhere – they will encounter huge community opposition every step of the way,” she said.

Someva Renewables was contacted for additional information but none was forthcoming at the time of publication.

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David Bowley9:13 pm 18 Dec 23

I thought the expensive Snowy 2.0 Hydro scheme was to be the answer to the electricity demand

The landed gentry don’t want their inherited sense of entitlement interfered with.

“The Litchfields are one of those families, having settled on the Monaro in the 1860s; their pastoral property “Hazeldean”, is foremost among Angus and Merino stud breeders in Australia”.
Why do people think that being born into a family that has been in the district for generations gives them a special status? It is a sheer fluke of birth and usually means they have not had to struggle to buy a house, a business or look for a job like most people.
I would guess this family are National supporters and share the National Party’s anti-renewable stance. I presume the Shelleys are of similar outlook.
NIMBYS, I say, put in the wind farms and make life easier for us all.
Some ordinary people will even get jobs out of this.

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