Claims of widespread community consultation on a proposed $2 billion wind farm at Toolara have been refuted, with accusations the process kept people in the dark so they did not have time to object.
Developer Forest Wind Holdings and the State Government defended its consultation last month after concerns were raised in a parliamentary committee report.
A State Development spokesman said it had “widely consulted with the community, timber industry, environment groups, regional councils, local businesses, and traditional owners” since the project was announced.
This was disputed by resident Sue Natho, who said the community “appears to have been left in the dark until the last minute … so we didn’t have time to object”.
Mrs Natho, who founded the Wide Bay Residents Against Wind Farms Facebook page, said residents were told nothing about the project until mid-December last year when the development application was lodged; consultation did not appear until mid-January in the form of letters “addressed to the householder”.
These were only left at homes within a 5km radius of the proposed farm.
“A number of people thought it was junk mail and threw it out,” she said.
Not only did this leave people with short notice about community meetings in early February, she said the meetings were “totally inadequate” and people “came away with more questions than they had answers”.
This was compounded by revelations the ecological assessments on the wind farm started at least three years before the public was made aware of the proposal.
Mrs Natho compared how this process unfolded in comparison to those like the Coopers Gap Wind Farm.
There, she said, consultation started in 2012 – five years before the DA was lodged.
Not to mention that the transmission tower route, which will cross the Bruce Highway to join the wind farm with the Woolooga substation, was still unconfirmed.
“We can’t get a proposal for where the lines will run,” Mrs Natho said.
She accepted that some people wanted the wind farm, and said this was not a case of not-in-my-backyard.
The project might stack up but there were still unanswered concerns about it being built in the UNESCO-designated Great Sandy Straits Biosphere, the turbines’ environmental impact on migratory birds, bushfire concerns, and remediation of the forest.
“They could have chosen a better site,” she said.
A Forest Wind spokeswoman said last month no migratory shorebirds were observed flying in or over the project area in any of its bird surveys.
She said a preliminary Bird and Bat Management Plan had been developed.
This included processes like temporarily shutting down turbines, potentially using acoustic devices to deter birds and slowing rotor speed.
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