Tensions have escalated over plans to build the southern hemisphere’s largest wind farm on King Island after the proponent vowed to push ahead despite falling just short of a targeted level of community support.
A ballot of eligible voters on the Bass Strait island voted 58.7 per cent in favour of the $2 billion TasWind project proceeding to full feasibility stage, with 41.23 per cent against.
The Tasmanian state-owned proponent, Hydro Tasmania, had repeatedly promised it would not proceed further with the 200-turbine project unless the ballot returned a yes vote of 60 per cent or above. After consulting the Labor-Greens state government, the Hydro board yesterday decided unanimously that 58.7 per cent was close enough, prompting accusations of betrayal from some islanders.
“This decision will only create further division in an already divided community,” said Jim Benn, school bus driver and chairman of the No TasWind Farm Group.
“Near enough is not good enough; 60 is 60 – not 58.77. How can King Islanders ever trust Hydro Tasmania again?”
That trust was further eroded when Hydro corporate services director Andrew Catchpole refused to commit to holding another ballot before proceeding with a development application.
Mr Catchpole would only commit to giving the community “another chance to have a say” before this occurred, without defining how. “This is one of the things we want to talk to the community about,” he said. “The process of survey that we have just executed has been agreed with the community and we would like to do the same with any process going forward.”
However, retired cattle farmer Donald Graham said this appeared to be reneging on a promise to hold a second ballot after feasibility studies were finished and before development.
Mr Graham said Hydro could not be trusted to examine key issues, such as turbine noise, particularly when the federal government had failed to deliver promised minimum standards.
“The federal government promised more work on standards relating to the noise issue and we’ve had two inquiries into this but nothing has happened,” he said.
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