Australia needs to develop the ability to manufacture wind turbines and the Illawarra is ideally placed to lead the way, the Transforming Australia conference was told yesterday.The call came as a local sustainability advocate said a wind farm could be running in the Southern Highlands within five to 10 years - if the community wanted it.Hepburn Wind director Martin May, whose co-operative runs a wind farm near Daylesford in Victoria, said wind energy was the cheapest renewable energy.The community-run Hepburn Wind recently set up a two-turbine farm to generate electricity for the grid - and a financial dividend for its members."That's all it takes to power the town - it powers all of Daylesford and most of Hepburn," Mr May said.South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris said the need for wind turbines would help define steelmaking jobs as "green" jobs.But the cost - and the job opportunities in the wind industry - are affected by the need to import the turbines from overseas, mainly from Europe.Ian Chew, general manager of Bulli manufacturer David Brown Gear, whose factory services turbines, said Australia had the technology and the know-how."There is absolutely no reason and there's no technology involved in any of these wind turbines that couldn't be done in Australia," he said.Mr May said making the parts locally would be better."I wouldn't say it can't be done, it just isn't done," he said."It would be ideal if it was manufactured in Australia."NSW Planning Department maps show the area from Kiama to Robertson has some of the strongest winds in the state. The Illawarra escarpment, Bowral and Moss Vale also have strong wind.Miles Lochhead, from the Southern Highlands climate action group CANWinErgy, said community consultation had not yet taken shape in the area, but he agreed the Highlands had no shortage of wind.But a plan to develop a community wind initiative has slowed, and turned into a push for a broader "sustainability hub" of consultancy and advice.Nonetheless, Mr Lochhead said he was optimistic a local wind farm could be established, possibly in the next five to 10 years.