A controversial plan to build wind turbines on Lord Howe Island off the New South Wales north coast has been rejected by the Federal Government.
Only a few hundred people live on Lord Howe Island, boosted by about 400 tourists at any one time. They all rely on a diesel generator for power.
The plan was to build two wind turbines, along with a solar farm, to cut energy from the generator by 70 per cent.
As a World Heritage-listed site, it had to be approved by Federal Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg.
But he has rejected the proposal, which he said would “have clearly unacceptable impacts”.
A spokesman for Mr Fydenberg said the “Government considered the proposed wind turbines would create a considerable, intrusive visual impact”.
“This would affect the spectacular and scenic landscapes for which the world heritage island group is recognised,” the spokesman said in a statement.
Chris Murray, who has lived on the island for 58 years, had supported the proposal.
“I don’t know if angry is the word, [I’m] devastated,” he said.
Those who backed the concept are keen to tackle the impacts of climate change on the low-lying island.
“A large part of lowlands section of the island, including the area where our air strip sits, would not be more than a metre above the high tide line,” Mr Murray said.
“So a large part of the settlement on the island would be severely impacted if there was significant rises in sea level.”
‘What about visual impact of Abbott Point?’
Lord Howe Island’s UNESCO listing has identified ‘human caused climate change’ as a key threat.
Mr Murray said the only survey done to gauge locals’ opinion had suggested that 92 per cent of them supported the plan.
“The two wind turbines would save us consuming something like 167,000 litres of diesel per year,” he said.
“So that would be a wonderful contribution to our energy security. And we believe it would strongly enhance the island’s World Heritage credentials.”
He said the wind turbines would have sat amongst vegetation, making them hard to see from the most populated areas.
“Surely if you were talking about visual impact on a World Heritage site, you would have to wonder why the two wind turbines would be struck down,” he said.
“Whereas the Abbott Point coal loading facility in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage [area] would be approved?
“We’d have to ask where is the consistency?”
‘We don’t want to rely on diesel being shipped’
About 540,000 litres of diesel is used on the island each year. It comes in on a boat each fortnight.
The Lord Howe Island Board’s chief executive Penny Holloway said the turbine plan was about sustainability.
“The concern that we have is about the long-term energy security for the island and being sustainable,” she said.
“We don’t particularly want to rely on the fortnightly freight vessel bringing in diesel.”
Ms Holloway said studies had shown the wind turbines would not have had a significant impact in the landscape.
The solar farm and battery plan has been approved to go ahead, with the solar farm expected to be up and running by next year.