Community consultation is still underway for a 200 turbine wind farm proposed for the island by Hydro Tas – the biggest in the southern hemisphere.
But fears have been raised around bio-diversity and local bird life.
Chair of the King Island Steering Committee for Birds in Backyards and contributor to Birds Australia Kate Ravich said it would be all but impossible to mitigate the impact of a wind farm island bird life.
“We don’t know enough about the island to know how to position a turbine without impacting on potentially endangered species,” she said.
Hydro Tas Sustainability and Safety Manager Andrew Scanlon said while the scheme is in the community consultation phase the focus is on engaging with locals.
He said if the scheme goes ahead there are rigorous environmental approval processes in place.
“We’ve got two major wind farms operating in the north west of Tasmania, and we’ve got 10 years detailed study on biodiversity related to those wind farms, and the wind farms have not produced any loss of biodiversity,” he said.
“We think we can build our wind farms without any detrimental effect on bird life populations.”
King Island holds claim to a number of sub-species – birds that have evolved on the island and don’t exits anywhere else in the world – as well as a number of endangered migratory birds each year, among them the critically endangered Orange Bellied Parrot.
“We have a lot of bird life here, and I think it would be extremely difficult to put 200 turbines on the island without having a quite significant impact on a number of species,” Ms Ravich said.
Mr Scanlon said Hydro Tas are already beginning to address concerns around local bird life.
“We’re already engaging with key groups including the orange bellied parrot recovery team, Birds Life Australia,” he said.
“It’s very important that we do this well, that we do it thoroughly.”
Ms Ravich cited international research which shows a gradual loss of bio-diversity over time once a wind farm has been put in place.
“That occurs within about a 600 metre radius of each turbine,” she said.
“So if you’re putting 200 turbines on a small island like King Island, and then you take a 600 metre radius around each turbine and take a reduction of bio-diversity within that area it’s a massive area for the whole island.”
“We are already vulnerable with a lot of our bio-diversity here, and a lot of our bird species, so I actually don’t think Hydro Tasmania can take mitigating steps – I don’t think they can take effective ones.”
Mr Scanlon said in the end, the decisions around environmental impact will be made by a regulator.
“We’re going to go through major studies – particularly on these issues – but a whole lot of others as well,” he said.
“And at the end of the day a regulator – in fact two in this case – the federal government and the state government – will have to approve this project.”
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