The State government-owned company Hydro Tasmania has been accused of offering incentives to committee members on King Island abattoir projects to secure votes for the company’s feasibility study into the TasWind project – a 600-megawatt wind farm proposed for the island.
Hydro Tasmania employees – new developments manager Tony Field and senior project manager Patrick Burke – met the King Island multi-species abattoir committee on Monday and it has been claimed the committee was offered funding for proposed abattoir projects if its support resulted in the feasibility study going ahead.
Multi-species abattoir committee chairman Chris Porter said many people were appalled by the suggestion.
“They didn’t mention a specific figure and generalised on the amount of money that would be given to the project but this was a definite attempt by Hydro Tasmania to sway public opinion in their favour with the offer of some cash,” he said.
Mr Porter said the move by Hydro Tasmania was disappointing because the Tasmanian Government had previously rejected their funding proposals for the multi-species abattoir project.
“This was really upsetting as Hydro Tasmania is a State-owned company – the State government either have the money to provide funding for projects such as this or they don’t,” he said.
Hydro Tasmania communications manager Ian Colvin confirmed the company had discussions with the group about the ways they could support the island’s beef industry, however he said it was in no way a “bribe”.
“We are disappointed anyone would make such a claim,” Mr Colvin said.
“We have been discussing with the community ways we could support King Island’s beef industry. We are keen to support the King Island community as it works through finding an appropriate solution to the challenges faced following the recent closure of the abattoir.
“One option is we could provide financial support for the development of a feasibility study or business plan in parallel with the TasWind feasibility stage (should it proceed). This contribution may be in the order of several hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Mr Colvin said if TasWind proceeds to development, Hydro Tasmania could make an equity contribution, on the community’s behalf, as part of the TasWind community benefits package to match funding to beef producers’ investments.
“As such the return on this equity stake could deliver an ongoing revenue stream for the community as well as assisting the viability of a critical industry,” he said.
The meeting between Hydro Tasmania and the multi-species abattoir committee came just days after the company gave in to community pressure and changed the format of its survey, used to determine the level of support for the feasibility study.
TasWind consultative committee president John Brewster said the committee discussed with Hydro Tasmania the wish of the island community members to have a straight out vote included in the survey.
“Hydro Tasmania have agreed to have a question in the survey which will be a straight yes or no to the feasibility study,” Mr Brewster said.
“It will be conducted by Tasmanian market researchers EMRS from June 7 and Hydro Tasmania have also agreed to have the results scrutinised.
“Mayor Greg Barrett and local businessman Jerry Perry will scrutineer the count, which will be independent of Hydro Tasmania.”
If there is a finding of 60 per cent in favour for the feasibility study, it will go ahead.