SOME residents say they are losing sleep when it comes to the ever-increasing use of frost fans on citrus crops in Leeton shire.
Five development applications were put to Leeton Shire Council at its March meeting last week, with the proposals calling for dozens of the fans to be installed on farms throughout the area.
Experts, manufacturers, engineers, growers and opponents to the development applications packed into the meeting, with the debate going for many hours.
The fans aim to reduce the impact of frost on the fruit while it is growing.
Those against the fans being installed near their homes said it doesn't matter if the fan was legally allowed to be there, the noise was causing them to lose sleep.
All up 18 fans were approved by council for use at three separate properties on Merungle Hill Road, Davies Road and Yate Road.
The first two locations had their applications unanimously approved, while the four fans designated for Yate Road gained the support of seven councillors, with two voting against the proposal.
The installation of one frost fan on Saunderson Road and six at Crowes Road were rejected by council.
One of the objectors was Ann-Marie Hillam, who herself is a citrus grower, but was concerned about the noise being produced by the fans.
"We all have a right to farm and earn a living, but we also all have a right to sleep and a good quality of life," she told the meeting.
"The impact of the fans is much wider than the stated agricultural purposes.
"There are a number of residents who will be affected because they are just out of the 500-metre zone ... that is the residents of Amesbury and Wattle Hill."
Council policy allows for frost fans provided they meet the Environment Protection Authority noise regulations of 55 decibels one metre outside and 35 decibels inside a residence in a rural zone.
For a residential zone it becomes 45 decibels one metre outside and 25 decibels inside a residence.
All residents of homes within a 500-metre radius of each fan were notified of the development application and invited to comment.
Sound modelling was carried out by Sonus for each of the development applications to test what their decibel rating would be, which helped council in making its decisions on the night.
Speaking on behalf of the applicants, Ben Daking of Frost Fans Australia said modern frost fans were much quieter than earlier models.
He said the automated motors were muffled and could "barely be heard" 100 metres away. Mr Daking said the fans were 40 per cent more efficient as they turn on and off themselves in accordance with the temperature as compared to the old manual variety.
This means it is very unlikely all fans will run at the same time and, when they do run, they do so for a shorter length of time than the old manual variety.
Mr Daking explained in cases closer to villages, five-blade fans were being installed, which are even quieter than the modern four-blade variety.
The proponents all agreed on the understanding that either the complainant or council could undertake an initial noise check if there were concerns that noise levels were being breached (following the installation of the fans).
However, noise assessments by suitably qualified experts can cost around $5000.
Councillor Tony Ciccia said last week's meeting was the most difficult one he had sat through since his election.
"I feel the process has been fair to all concerned," he told the meeting.
"As councillors we have listened and made a determination based on all the information we have before us, including the presentations made tonight.
"It's always difficult balancing the needs of industry, which is vital for our economy, and the needs of families wanting a good night's rest.
"No sides have got everything they want, but I think we have come as close to a win-win as possible."
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