A cash donation of $10,000 to a local school has been howled down by opponents of a controversial wind farm development on the Atherton Tableland.
A small state school in Queensland’s far north has turned down a $10,000 donation because the would-be benefactor is wanting to build a controversial wind farm development nearby.
Ratch Australia is yet to get approval for its $500 million wind farm on the Kennedy Highway west of Cairns, between the tiny towns of Walkamin and Tolga.
That’s why opponents of the Mt Emerald wind farm are labelling the offer of money to the Tolga State School a blatant “bribe” and “dirty money”.
Steve Lavis from the Tableland Wind Turbine Action group says the company is trying to buy it’s way into the community.
“I believe the public are smart enough, I believe they’ll see through this... but I believe the developer would use this as leverage, that (the wind farm) has public and community, and that’s a real concern to us especially when you’re going to use children.”
Ratch Australia executive general manager Geoffrey Dutton says it is just acting as a good corporate citizen should.
“It’s just a lack of understanding about how large corporations work in regions where they invest money.”
“We’re already spending very large sums of money and have people doing studies of animal life plus we’re looking at geological studies so we’re already committed and involved in the community.”
Even so, the Tolga State School parents’ and citizens’ association has decided it will not be accepting the money.
The president Maria Macdonald was not available to talk to the ABC, but in a statement Education Queensland says the school has acted entirely appropriately in rejecting the donation.
It says: “Schools are places for teaching and learning.”
“They are not to be seen as advocates or otherwise for development applications, individual products, services or commercial enterprise.”
But debate about the merits of the donation has split the tightknit Tableland community, if talkback callers to ABC Local Radio this morning are any indication.
Some believe the school was within its rights to accept the donation for the benefit of local children; others congratulated the school for refusing it.
But Steve Lavis says the school has sent a clear message to Ratch Australia.
“Oh we need to congratulate them. It takes enormous courage. Bear in mind this offer, this donation/bribe was 10,000 this year and it was going to rise to up to 15,000 over the next three years. So, we can say 35,000 dollars that the school has been able to say ‘no, we don’t want your money, we don’t feel comfortable being used to promote your cause.”
However, if Ratch Australia is feeling rebuffed, it isn’t letting on and says its generous offer is still on the table.
“We don’t take it as a knockback, we’ll work with the Tolga school and with other schools when the schools are happy and peaceful about working with us.”
“There’s a lot of noise around from other people and if the noise is causing a bit of a problem for schools, let’s just leave it quiet for the moment.”