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Confusion over King Island wind farm vote  

Credit:  Shannon Twomey | The Weekly Times | June 6, 2013 | www.weeklytimesnow.com.au ~~

Drama continues on King Island with confusion over which residents can vote on TasWind.

The TasWind project has been proposed by the state-owned company Hydro Tasmania and if approved would see between 195-250 wind turbines on the island.

Voting will take place on a feasibility study into the project, starting tomorrow but the No TasWind Farm Group said Hydro Tasmania refused to register some King Island residents.

NTWFG Chairman Jim Benn said several residents had reported that without a King Island driver’s license they were unable to register to vote.

“Some of these people have provided evidence of residence by presenting utility bills with a King Island address but Hydro Tasmania officials have refused their registration,” Mr Benn said.

“This is behaviour you’d expect from a third-world dictator not a Tasmanian Government business.

“People who do not possess a driver’s licence or who have not got around to updating their licence details are effectively disenfranchised.

“I’ve raised my concerns with Tasmanian research company EMRS, who are overseeing the vote, and its representative has confirmed a utility bill is sufficient proof of residence.”

Hydro Tasmania communications manager Ian Colvin said the claims made by the No TasWind Farm Group were false.

“Despite earlier in the week saying they would abide by the wishes of the community, this seems to be a deliberate attempt by the No group to undermine the survey before it has even begun which is extremely disappointing.”

There is also further confusion on the island about a majority support for tomorrow’s survey.

The NTWFG are concerned over the governance process issue discussed by Hydro Tasmania.

Mr Colvin said that 60 per cent would be a good indication for support for the feasibility study.

“The project will only proceed to full feasibility if the majority of King Islanders are in favour. This remains our position.

“However, we also have a governance process issue that gets overlooked at times.

“We have said that the final decision on proceeding to feasibility has always been up to our board – just how it works in the corporate sector when making multi-million dollar decisions.

“The board will consider the result of the survey and other matters and make a commercial decision about proceeding to feasibility which is expected to be done at their next meeting on June 26.

“This will be two days after the survey result is expected to be released.”

Earlier today residents also criticised Hydro Tasmania for putting more money on the table in a bid to secure votes for the feasibility study.

Hydro Tasmania has confirmed they will offer an estimated $1 million for a community fund and $500,000 for a feasibility study into the island’s abattoir project.

Mr Colvin said the community fund would be set up once the wind farm was operational with the money for the abattoir feasibility study on the condition that the feasibility study went ahead.

King Island business owner Mick Williams said Hydro Tasmania’s offer of money was taking advantage of the island and preying on a desperate community.

The island’s second biggest employer the JBS Swift abattoir closed in September last year with many of its workers quick to leave the island and beef farmers were left to figure out how they were going to get their cattle off an island with just one weekly ship service.

“We do need something on the Island but that something is not the wind farm,” Mr Williams said.

“This is corporate business at its best.

“It seems like the more support we get to stop the project the bigger the dangling carrot gets.”

It’s not just the financial offers which have increased this week, the division in the community is now more apparent than ever.

King Island Mayor Greg Barrett said that the TasWind project debate has become very nasty splitting up families and groups of friends.

Mr Williams said the amount of damage the TasWind project is causing to the community is unparalleled.

“Friendships have been broken, families torn and reputations damaged,” Mr Williams said.

“The TasWind project is consuming everyone on the island and you can’t get away from it.

“People are sick of hearing about it and it’s breaking up families.

“There are situations where the sons don’t want it but the fathers do and so they’re hardly talking.”

When asked if the division in the community could get worse Mr Williams said he hoped not but if the feasibility study went ahead residents would be in limbo.

“My hope is that a no vote to the feasibility study will be carried out and we can bring the community back to its normal self,” he said.

“But if the study does go ahead people will be in limbo and there’s some who have lived here their whole lives who are talking about leaving.”

The postal vote will be mailed out to residents from June 7 with the decision on the proposal known by June 24.

Source:  Shannon Twomey | The Weekly Times | June 6, 2013 | www.weeklytimesnow.com.au

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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