Lawyers for a government agency are acting against the interests of Tasmania in an ongoing legal case, by arguing that a decision forcing a proposed wind farm development to shut down for half the year should be upheld, Labor has claimed in parliament.
At the start of the year, the state’s Environmental Protection Agency ruled that wind project proponent ACEN must shut its wind farm for five months of the year to protect an an endangered species of migrating bird. The proposed wind farm would see up to 122 turbines built on Robbins Island, off Montagu in Tasmania’s far North-West.
But the development was blocked after the Bob Brown Foundation launched a legal challenge, saying the turbines posed an unacceptable risk to endangered orange bellied parrots. ACEN has appealed to the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, and a decision is expected in coming days.
In parliament on Wednesday, Labor energy spokesman Dean Winter said lawyers for the state’s Environmental Protection Agency were acting against the state’s interest and putting the $1.7 billion project at risk, by arguing the conditions imposed on the proposed wind farm should remain.
“They are arguing that the project cannot go ahead unless it is prohibited from operating five months of the year – that is what representatives of the Tasmanian government are doing right now in that case,” he said. “They are not arguing that the project should go ahead, they are arguing against Tasmania’s economic interests, that it should not go ahead – that’s effectively what they are doing.” ACEN has previously claimed that shutting the farm down for five months of the year would make it unviable.
Lawyers for the Bob Brown Foundation, which lodged an appeal against the decision allowing the project to go ahead if it operated only part of the year, have argued the wind farm should not go ahead at all.
Premier Jeremy Rockliff denied the Labor claim that it did not support the Robbins Island project. “Of course we are a strong supporter of Robbins Island wind farm, which is a key project that could contribute significantly to Tasmania’s legislated target to double its renewable energy generation by 2040,” he said. “Our state needs renewable energy generation,” he said, but failed to expand on how the government was dealing with the legal challenges that are holding the project up.
ACEN Australia has been contacted for comment.
Earlier, opposition leader Rebecca White claimed that the government’s reliance on dividends from TasNetworks had resulted in its $2.2 billion of debt pile, leaving it without the funds necessary to invest in the grid. She claimed that the state-owned grid company had “maxed out its credit card”, and that this was the true reason for the decision to initially only progress one phase of the $1 billion North West Transmission Developments.
In his answer, Energy Minister Nick Duigan said TasNetwork’s NWTD would be financed at concessional rates by Commonwealth entities, and that the decision to phase development of the project had “absolutely nothing” to do with the company’s debt.
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