Hydro Tasmania has been forced to delay a decision on its $2 billion King Island wind farm project, with one community leader suggesting residents are evenly split over the proposal.
The state-owned company has confirmed its decision over whether to proceed to a feasibility study – initially scheduled for as early as next week – has been postponed until June.
King Island councillor Charles Arnold said Hydro had also given a commitment at a recent community meeting, following a request from residents, to postpone its crucial survey of island residents.
“There has been an agreement from the Hydro not to make a decision or undertake a survey until the beginning of June,” Cr Arnold said.
“The Hydro has agreed, because of the community reaction, to extend it out.”
The timeline change coincides with the mobilising of a community opposition group, separate from the consultative group, which has scheduled its own meetings.
The proposed TasWind project, involving the construction of a 600-megawatt wind farm consisting of about 200 turbines, was estimated to cost $2 billion and create up to 500 construction jobs, with 15 subsequent jobs for operators.
Cr Arnold said he believed the community was evenly divided at this stage, but the silent majority was seeking more information before making a final decision.
“I would say there’s a vocal minority group that don’t want it and then there’s the quiet majority that are waiting to get more information from Hydro,” Cr Arnold said.
“I would say it’s [public sentiment is leaning] 50-50 at present.”
Fellow King Island councillor David Brewster agreed the silent majority of island residents still had an open mind on the project.
“There will be a section of the community that would be very opposed to it and a section that will be very much for it, and probably about 80% of the population, and this is just my guess, that don’t have a polarised view on it and they will retain an open mind,” Cr Brewster said.
He said his personal view was Hyrdo should proceed with a feasibility study while continuing to consult residents.
“I say bring it on,” Cr Brewster said.
“Hydro are in a position where they know all the numbers, the topography of the island is well known.
“My guess is they have more than enough information to put together a fair dinkum feasibility study and development application.”
Cr Brewster said King Island could not turn its back on the economic benefits, especially following the closure of the meatworks and its ripple effect on the farming community.
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