A case against Hydro Tasmania’s plans to build a $2 billion wind farm on King Island could test the “social licence to operate” concept for the first time in an Australia court.
The No TasWind Farm Group, which is attempting to block the state-owned company proceeding with its 200-turbine development, appeared in the Federal Court in Hobart yesterday.
In a statement issued on behalf of the group, its lawyers said the case was not about the merits of wind farms.
“It is about whether a large and powerful corporation can impose a vast industrial project on a small island community by claiming that it has a `social licence’ . . . when it can point to support from no more than a third of the community.”
Hydro Tasmania has denied the allegations.
However, the group suffered a legal setback yesterday, with Justice Duncan Kerr ordering it to narrow the scope of its statement of claim to avoid racking up unnecessary legal costs on both sides.
He described the original documents as “sprawling and inarticulate”.
The anti-wind farm group claims the results of a June poll which found just under 59 per cent of respondents supported the project falls short of the 60 per cent goal previously set by the company, partly because a third of eligible residents did not vote.
Hydro Tasmania is attempting to have the matter struck out.
“The claim that Hydro Tasmania set a threshold of 60 per cent community support as a prerequisite for beginning a feasibility study is incorrect,” a Hydro spokeswoman said in a statement following the hearing.
Hydro Tasmania is also seeking security of costs from the group.
Barrister Andrew Wood, representing the King Island group, admitted his client lacked the resources to meet the anticipated legal costs of the proceedings.
A Hydro spokeswoman said a decision on the TasWind project would only be made after the feasibility study is completed, which is expected to take about 18 months.
The parties will appear next in court on November 22.
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