The much-delayed Bald Hills wind farm in Victoria faces a new hurdle, with opponents threatening a High Court challenge to try to scuttle the contentious project.
Ownership of the proposed wind farm – notorious for being rejected because of a perceived threat to the orange-bellied parrot – has been sold to the Australian arm of the Japanese company Mitsui.
The proposed cost of the project has blown out to $300million, with the wind farm now scheduled to operate from 2011, five years after former environment minister Ian Campbell caved in and belatedly approved the project.
Tim Le Roy, spokesman for the Tarwin Valley Coastal Guardians, said he would today seek talks with Mitsui in a bid to have the project stopped.
“Mitsui have chosen to buy this project and not consult with the local community at all,” Mr Le Roy said. “They would know it was controversial. What we are seeing is one of Victoria’s great landscapes being sold to a Japanese company so they can milk our landscapes for their carbon profile.”
Mitsui has acquired 100 per cent of the shares of Bald Hills Wind Farm, a special purpose company that held the development rights for the planned 52-turbine project near the southern town of Wonthaggi.
The Melbourne company Wind Power told The Australian this week that it planned to enter into an agreement with Mitsui to assist in the project’s construction. It also expected to manage the facility once it was built by the end of 2011.
Mr Le Roy said yesterday the project’s opponents had raised enough funds to finance a challenge in the High Court.
“We believe the state Government’s approval process was flawed on environmental and natural justice grounds,” hesaid.
“We would do a High Court challenge to the permit itself. It is definitely an abuse of process by the state Government.”
He disputed Wind Power’s claim that the project had broad community support.
He said the company had wrongly claimed it was going to build the project itself, and that it had fallen well behind on its construction timetable.
“We’ve raised the money,” he said. “We’ve been fundraising for the last three months. Until Wind Power showed their cards, we had nothing to aim at. We’ve known for years that there was no way they could raise the money.”
Mr Le Roy said there were also “some significant indigenous issues” on the proposed site, but he declined to elaborate at this stage.
“There’s a long way to go yet before this one gets final approval,” he said. “There is the whole panel process itself, and the issuing of the permit was reasonably flawed. I just think wind has been such an embarrassment for the Bracks-Brumby Government that I don’t think the level of support for wind power is there. You never hear the (Government) talking about it any more.”
10 June 2008
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