The State Government has given the Mount Emerald Wind Farm the green light but imposed strict conditions on the $380 million project.
The long-awaited decision came late on Friday night and has angered the Tablelands Wind Turbine Action Group, which has fought the development for more than four years.
The wind farm is proposed for Walkamin, about 43km southwest of Cairns, and will include up to 63 turbines on towers about 80-90m tall, with blades of about 50m.
The project is a joint venture between Ratch Australia and Port Bajool, and will have the potential to power about 75,000 homes for more than 20 years.
It is estimated to create up to 200 jobs during the two-year construction phase with ongoing employment for up to 15 local workers over the life of the wind farm.
“This will generate direct and indirect economic benefits to the local, regional and national economies,” said Deputy Premier Jackie Trad.
Ms Trad, also the State Planning Minister, said her department had sought advice from government agencies and independent consultants regarding key issues raised by the community.
“I have listened first-hand to the community’s concerns regarding the proposed development, particularly in relation to potential noise, traffic and environmental issues,” Ms Trad said.
“As part of the approval, the state requires the proponent to comply with strict conditions, including noise limits which are equal to, or better than, standards in other states.”
Other conditions are that all turbines must be at least 1.5km from any existing dwelling, and the developers will be required to submit traffic and environment management plans for approval prior to construction starting.
They must undertake community consultation at each stage of the project and a complaints hotline will be set up.
Mt Emerald Wind Farm director John Morris cautiously welcomed the decision.
“We’re pleased that an approval has been given but our project manager Ratch will give a more comprehensive response after viewing the approval and conditions,” he said.
Tablelands Wind Turbine Action Group spokeswoman Lee Schwerdtfeger described the decision as “a big mistake”.
“We hope that they covered community concerns in the permit, although we can’t see how they could have because there will be so many negative impacts,” she said.
“They will be industrialising a rural area and we expect that the government has taken advice from their own noise experts because, up until now, the department has ignored advice from these experts.
“What we’d really like to know is where it’s going to be built because our lives are going to be in limbo for the next few years.”
The project still needs federal approvals before it can go ahead.
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