A large-scale wind farm proposed for the tiny Tasmanian island of King Island is dividing the local community, highlighted at an angst-filled community meeting on Monday.
Hydro Tasmania is proposing to build a 600-megawatt wind farm consisting of between 195-250 wind turbines, called the TasWind project.
The wind farm is expected to take up at least 12 to 15 per cent of the island and if built, will possibly be the largest in the southern hemisphere.
The representative body for the community in the consultation process – the TasWind Community Consultative Committee – had members present at the meeting to note concerns raised, which included visual pollution, tourism attraction, health concerns and land values, if the wind farm were to be built.
However some of the 165 people in attendance were disappointed with their efforts after the meeting on Monday night.
Local beef farmer Chris Porter, who has lived on the island for 13 years, had distrust over the committee because members were not community-elected.
He attended the meeting in the hope there would be a genuine debate about the project and feedback taken.
“We went to the meeting with some expectation of a decision being made but when residents asked for a vote to be held, the request was refused, with TasWind saying they will conduct a survey at a later date,” he said.
“The consultation period with residents has been disappointing.
“TasWind said if the majority of King Island residents were not in favor of the wind farm, then it would not go ahead, but that view no longer seems to be the case.”
While fellow King Island farmer Ian Lester said there was a large number of people opposed to the wind farm at the meeting, but a request to tally how many were ignored.
“There was a wide range of questions and concerns expressed at the meeting,” Mr Lester said.
“At the end, the committee gave us five stickers and asked us to put stickers next to which concerns and questions we felt were the most important.
“I thought all of the questions raised were of equal importance and all of them should be considered by TasWind.
“In this regard the meeting ran very poorly.”
Hydro Tasmania did not attend the community meeting but said they supported the idea of the community having discussions to further their understanding of the proposal.
TasWind project director Tony Field said they had planned to undertake an initial measurement of community support this month, but that the local community had asked for more time to gain more information.
“We have listened to the community and we will change our plans to make sure they get the information they need to make an informed decision about the TasWind project,” he said.
“There is still a long way to go before we would even consider putting a firm proposal to the community to build a wind farm, including an extensive social, economic and environmental assessment process.
“Hydro Tasmania is committed to working with the people of King Island on the project. The TasWind project will not proceed without the support of the community.”
The TasWind project plans to capitalise on the roaring forties winds on the island and sell power to the mainland, via a one-way undersea cable connected near the Victorian coastal city of Geelong.
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