THERE’S an elephant in the room at Waubra.
128 of them, in fact.
Ask anyone in the town about Australia’s most controversial wind farm and the answer is usually the same.
“I’m not saying nothing about the wind towers,” said long time resident Winton Harrison, echoing the sentiments of much of the town’s population.
Perhaps it’s because to the people of Waubra, the town is much more than just the 128 turbine wind farm it has become synonymous with.
Before the arrival of the imposing towers, Waubra was the envy of the region’s farmers for its rich red volcanic soil, perfect for potato and crop farming.
Each October the town has the Waubra Community Festival, which features local produce, entertainment and wind farm tours, all designed to showcase the area as much more than just a wind farm.
Mr Harrison was born in Waubra and left for 10 years when he bought a farm at Shelford, near Geelong.
He returned because nothing could beat the “good ground” of his home district.
The town was once the vibrant meeting place for all the region’s farmers, but like many small farming communities, has seen its population steadily decline.
But there are signs of revival.
The Springs Hotel, named after Waubra’s original name, recently reopened after a long period of closure.
Though farming remains the predominant industry, many of the town’s residents are weekday commuters.
Mr Harrison said despite the controversy generated by the wind farm, there doesn’t appear to be a lot of trouble moving real estate.
“A lot reckon it’s split it in half but I don’t know … they seem to be able to sell the houses alright,” he said.
“Waubra’s all right, there’s no doubt about it.”
Municipality: City of Ballarat and Pyrenees Shire
First settled: 1857
Main industries: Livestock, potato and crop farming, wind
Claim to fame: Waubra is home to a 128 turbine wind farm, which, upon its completion in 2009 was the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. It has since been surpassed. The farm has generated endless national debate over whether the turbines cause adverse health effects to residents living nearby.
Five fast facts
1. The original inhabitants of the area were the Waubra tribe of the Wuatharong people.
2. Major Thomas Mitchell was the first European to traverse the area in 1839, when he planted a flag on nearby Mount Mitchell.
3. The first settler in the area was John Warne, who established a pastoral run in 1857. The town was originally known as The Springs before being renamed Waubra in 1889.
4. The railway came to Waubra in 1889 but passenger services ceased in 1931. It continued as a "goods only" line until its closure in January 1968.
5. Before the construction of the wind farm, Waubra was renowned as the region’s most fertile crop farming area due to its rich red volcanic soil.
Five things to do
1. Learn all about the wind industry. Information about the construction, size and electricity generated by the wind farm is available at an information hub on the outskirts of town.
2. Taste some local wine. Quoin Hill Vineyard was established in 1997 and, as part of the Pyrenees wine region, produces a wide variety of red and white wines. It also has a cafe open at weekends.
3. Watch the local footy. Waubra’s seniors team has dominated the Central Highlands Football League in recent times. They play at home every second weekend during the footy season.
4. Have a beer at the local. The Springs Hotel reopened after extensive renovation about a year ago.
5. Attend the Waubra Community Festival. Held each October, the Waubra Community Festival began life as the Waubra Wind Festival but is now a vehicle to showcase the town as having more than just turbines. It features fresh local produce, the Waubra Gift running race, entertainment for adults and kids, along with free wind tower tours. There is also a free shuttle bus service from Ballarat.