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Wind farm issue smolders

The mood on King Island is still tense as residents mull over news Hydro Tasmania will move on to the next stage of its proposal to build a 200-turbine wind farm.

Mayor Greg Barratt said the community was still fiercely divided on the issue and he did not expect that division to ease any time soon.

Hydro Tasmania expects it will take two years to conduct a feasibility study into its $2 billion wind project, which will need outside investment.

Cr Barratt said he hoped the community could come back together as it learned more about the project.

“I encourage people to quieten down and take a deep breath and see what the feasibility study brings,” he said.

“I understand the ‘no’ people are very disappointed that the study is going on despite Hydro Tasmania not quite achieving the 60 per cent support they were seeking.”

A poll of residents and off-island property owners on whether Hydro Tasmania should take the project to the feasibility stage showed 58.77 per cent were in support.

The company’s board decided that was close enough to proceed.

More than 400 people who were eligible to have their say did not bother.

The Australian Environment Foundation, which organised an anti-wind-farm rally in Canberra earlier this month, has called on Hydro Tasmania to conduct studies into the health impacts of wind farms before it pushes on.

The company said concerns about the visual impact of the 200 towers and possible health risks would be addressed with the community.

The foundation said it had been two years since a Senate inquiry handed down its recommendations on wind farm health studies to the Federal Government.

“Hydro Tasmania could demonstrate leadership and corporate responsibility by committing to do these studies or actively advocate for the Government to undertake studies as agreed,” the foundation’s Max Rheese said yesterday.

Clean Energy Council policy director Russell Marsh said scaremongering by groups such as the “deceptively-named” Australian Environment Foundation created stress and division in the communities they claimed to be helping.

“There are more than 200,000 wind turbines at wind farms all over the world, many of them much closer to people’s houses than is possible under Australia’s strict planning regulations,” Mr Marsh said.

The National Health and Medical Research Council was reviewing the evidence surrounding wind farms, he said.