Lawyers for King Island residents opposed to the southern hemisphere’s biggest wind farm have given the proponent 21 days to halt work on the project or face a court injunction.
Hobart barrister Nick Beattie, representing a group of locals opposed to the $2 billion TasWind project, has provided advice on legal avenues to halt the project. The most promising is based on the legal principle of estoppel and would argue that Hydro Tasmania had led locals to believe it would abandon the project if it achieved less than 60 per cent support in a ballot of islanders.
Last month, that ballot returned a vote of 58.7 per cent support but the state- owned company decided to push ahead with the project to full feasibility stage. It later announced its chief executive, Roy Adair – who first nominated the 60 per cent target – was leaving the company, but denied his departure was linked to the project.
Mr Beattie says in the letter that the 60 per cent commitment led the No TasWind Farm Group to take part in the ballot and organise a “detailed and expensive campaign”.
“In the circumstances it would be unconscionable for HT (Hydro Tasmania) to act in a manner which is contrary to its commitment,” he says in the letter, dated July 5.
“If HT does not confirm within 21 days of the date of this letter that it will refrain from conducting further work on the project, including the conduct of a pre-feasibility study, my client will commence proceedings.”
The letter also says a “significant number” of eligible voters were denied a vote in the ballot and that voting papers “will be relevant in proceedings”.
However, Hydro spokeswoman Samantha Meyer said the company did “not understand the basis on which there is any claim”. “We have referred the matter to our lawyers, and we will provide a response in due course,” she said.
She also said there was a difference between statements made by Hydro employees in relation to the 60 per cent figure and “perceptions formed about that figure by some”.
The project, to be funded with a joint venture partner should it proceed, would export 2400 gigawatt hours of energy to Victoria via a new cable under Bass Strait.