The prospect of King Island being more widely known for its 200-plus wind turbines rather than the beef and cheese it produces has caused a major rift in the community.
Mayor Greg Barratt said the debate about the massive $2 billion TasWind proposal had become very nasty and split up families and groups of friends.
When the project was first announced, there was much excitement on the Bass Strait island.
The island’s second biggest employer, the JBS Swift abattoir, had closed just months earlier and about 100 jobs had been lost. Many of those workers were quick to leave the island in search of employment and beef farmers had to work out how they were going to get their cattle off an island with just one weekly ship service.
But the wind project, which at first had buoyed the community’s hopes that a new economic future could be on the horizon, has now split a tight-knit community which always pulled together through tough times.
Cr Barratt fears the wind farm debate could end up as divisive as the Franklin Dam dispute which fragmented the West Coast community in the 1980s.
“It has been a dreadful experience,” Cr Barratt said.
“It has caused dissension. These kind of rifts can last a lifetime.”
Jim Benn from NoTasWind says while he has “copped an earful” from a couple of old mates for taking a stance against the project, he was also thanked for championing the cause by many others.
Hydro Tasmania, which is behind the TasWind proposal, will start its long-awaited poll of residents on Friday when ballots arrive in the post.
The results are expected to be known by the end of June. If 60 per cent of the 1600-strong community vote for the project to progress to the next stage, the electricity generator will spend $18 million over two years conducting a feasibility study to see if the project stacks up.
That study will include a formal analysis of what private investment can be secured to get the project built.
None of the power generated by the 200 turbines will stay on the island or be fed back to Tasmania. Instead, a underwater cable will carry the electricity to Geelong where it will enter the Victorian grid.
The council, as a body, is supporting the “yes to feasibility” vote.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding