Hydro Tasmania will proceed with its feasibility study for a 200-turbine wind farm on King Island, which would be the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.
In a survey of 1,500 residents with 878 respondents, 59 per cent of the island’s land owners and residents voted to back the feasibility study on the $2 billion project.
The state-owned company previously said it will not proceed with the project unless it gains 60 per cent community support, but Hydro spokesman Andrew Catchpole says 59 per cent is sufficient.
“We’re aware that there are different views in the community, but we do feel that the survey result of 59 per cent is a very strong indication of community support,” Mr Catchpole said.
“We didn’t have a hard cut-off. The question was posed, and we indicated that a simple majority of 50 per cent plus one wouldn’t be enough.”
King Island’s mayor Greg Barratt says the result puts Hydro in a difficult bind, but it is a necessary start.
“I mean, 154 more people want it to go to feasibility than don’t, so it is a decisive majority,” Mr Barratt said.
“I’m a member of the council and we unanimously wanted a feasibility study, so I voted yes.
“I believe it’s a safe process. During the feasibility study, they’ll be sorting out what sort of compensation and benefits that we as a community will receive for having this wind farm.”
Vote won’t help settle bitter dispute over wind farm
King Island local Meredith Graham says it is a positive result and wants the feasibility study to proceed.
“I can’t find all the answers that I need to the questions that I have,” Ms Graham said.
“But because TasWind did say that they were looking for 60 per cent it does leave it a little bit unclear as to whether they’ll go ahead.”
However, opponents say the failure for the survey to gather a 60 per cent approval rate means that Hydro must walk away from the controversial proposal.
Jim Benn from the NoTasWind Farm Group says Hydro has not achieved the support it wanted.
“They have agreed that 60 per cent is necessary. They haven’t achieved it,” Mr Benn said.
“Ever been to an exam and got 49 per cent and gone to the teacher and said, “listen, I need to pass”? You can’t.”
But a spokeswoman says that Hydro never said it had to get 60 per cent support for the wind study – rather, it was around 60 per cent.
Mr Barratt says the close vote won’t help settle the bitter dispute about the wind farm.
“A close vote like this certainly won’t help heal the division,” he said.
“But, it’s something we’ve got to concentrate on. We’ve got to all take a deep breath I think and start being civil to one another.”
Beef farmers show support for feasibility study
Meanwhile, the King Island Beef Producers Group is supporting the study.
Many of the proposed wind towers could end up on beef farms if the project goes ahead, and the group’s president Richard Sutton says that they have been promised help in setting up a new abattoir if it does.
“Hydro has offered up to $500,000 to continue on from the abattoir study, which results were released last week,” Mr Sutton said.
“If the wind towers were to go to construction stage, then they were going to match the King Island investment dollar for dollar.”
Hydro Tasmania says the the wind farm will bring hundreds of millions of dollars into the local community, as well as infrastructure upgrades and at least 60 jobs.
Each of the turbines, designed to take advantage of the so-called Roaring Forties winds, will be 150 metres tall from the base of the turbine to the tip of the blade.
Hydro’s board brought forward a meeting from Wednesday to provide a quick response and avoid uncertainty for the community.
If the wind farm is built on King Island it will be at least another nine years until the project starts generating electricity.
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