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King Island wind farm fight heads to court

King Island is set to become as well known for a divisive wind farm battle as it is for its beef and cheese.

A group from the small Bass Strait community is challenging a proposal to build the southern hemisphere’s largest wind farm on the island.

The No TasWind Farm Group Inc (NTWFG) has lodged a claim with the Federal Court, arguing project developer Hydro Tasmania has no “social licence” for the 200-turbine project.

It claims Hydro has reneged on a deal to only go ahead if 60 per cent of the island’s 1500 residents support the proposal.

Hydro has decided to proceed with a feasibility study into the $2 billion project after polling the island’s population in June.

The vote resulted in 58.77 per cent support.

In court documents, NTWFG asked for an injunction halting the project and stopping Hydro from arguing it is entitled to proceed.

The group says Hydro should cease “representing that it has obtained from the King island community the social licence to operate the wind farm scheme”.

The island’s population risks being torn apart, the group says, with the proposal “creating community tension and attendant damage to the close-knit structure of the King Island community”.

NTWFG argues just 35 per cent of eligible voters and, at best, 52 per cent of those who did vote supported the wind farm when invalid votes are considered.

TasWind’s 150-metre turbines would capture the fury of the Roaring Forties and pipe electricity across Bass Strait.

Hydro says 500 jobs will be created during construction and millions pumped into an economy recently hit hard by the closure of one of its major employers, the King Island Beef abattoir.

The project would begin in 2017 and be completed two years later if given the green light.

Neither party would comment when contacted on Thursday.

After the vote, Hydro said the 60 per cent figure was not set in stone and community consultation would continue.

NTWFG has said the project would cost millions in tourism revenue.

King Island mayor Greg Barratt, who supports the proposal, expressed his disappointment.

“This is really only going to stir up the division in the community again,” he told ABC radio.