King Island wind farm proposal: a case study in community engagement

A wind farm proposal for King Island has emerged as a case study in community engagement.

The wind farm proponent, TasWind, are seeking the support of the community from the earliest stages of the project. The public-owned energy company is giving the community the power to decide whether a two-year feasibility study is conducted. TasWind is on the record in the King Island Courier assuring islanders it would only proceed with the wind farm if it is supported by the majority of the community. Put simply, TasWind is allowing the community to determine the fate of the project.

King_Island_Currie_Power_Station_Wind_Farm

The TasWind approach may eventually be regarded as a best practice model for community engagement. Yet this fact hasn’t stopped King Island from becoming the latest battleground for anti-wind farm campaigners. These interests are seeking to kill the project before a feasibility study is even conducted.  That is, before the community has the facts, figures and evidence it needs to make an informed decision.

Yes 2 Renewables has visited the King Island on two occasions. The first visit was to observe the community engagement process by attending forums organised by the TasWind Consultative Committee. (Locals will remember me as the bloke sporting the daggy Vegemite jumper, taking notes and listening carefully to the proceedings.)

The second was to observe public meeting organised by the No TasWind Farm Group which hosted the Waubra Foundtion’s Sarah Laurie (see SourceWatch). RenewEconomy describes Laurie as a “dedicated anti-wind campaigner.”  Attendence at this meeting would have provided a useful contrast to the TWCC’s official consultation process. (I was ejected from the No TasWind Farm Group meeting. More on that later…)

The King Island wind farm proposal will feature in the news over the coming month as the community decides whether it supports a feasibility study. For now, here’s a report Shannon Twoney filed for Stock & Land:

Wind farm debate continues

HIGH levels of infrasound was one of the key subjects discussed by farmers at a TasWind community meeting in King Island last Friday.

The community meeting is just one of many in relation to a 600-megawatt wind farm proposed for the island by State-owned company Hydro Tasmania.

If approved, the project would see between 195-250 turbines on the island.

The proposal is currently in the community consultation period and will proceed to a feasibility study if the community approves, but residents have requested to hear about other people’s experiences with wind farms before making their decision.

Last week’s meeting was run by the TasWind Consultative Committee, which comprises of 17 King Island community members and acts as a liaison between the community and Hydro Tasmania.

The committee organised three guest speakers to share their own stories with the community including farmers David Mortimer from South Australia and Donald Thomas from Waubura and Ararat mayor, Gwenda Allgood.

Mr Mortimer hosts four wind turbines on his SA property at Millicent.

He was initially in favour of wind farms but changed his mind after identifying health problems both he and his wife were experiencing, including sleep deprivation.

The Mortimers recently had acoustic monitoring in the inside of their home over a three-week period which showed high levels of infrasound consistent with the number of turbines at a distance of 2.5 kilometres from their home.

Mr Thomas spoke of a similar experience at Waubra near Ballarat.

He has worked as a farmer for more than 50 years and was instrumental in bringing turbines to the area.

But the noise has driven Mr Thomas out of his home.

In an opposing view, Ms Allgood shared the Ararat community’s experience with the Chalicum wind farm and the benefits the project has had for the community including job creations and economical benefits.

TasWind Consultative Committee president John Brewster said the meeting was beneficial to residents, with plenty of positive feedback.

“We ran two sessions with about 160 people in attendance all up,” he said

“The noise and infrasound subjects were issues that were heavily discussed by Donald and David and it’s a subject that both the consultative committee and Hydro Tasmania need to be taking seriously.

“While the wind turbines in the Ararat region are on a different scale to the ones proposed for King Island, residents also found it beneficial to hear about the councillor’s experience.”

No TasWind committee member Donald Graham said it was beneficial to hear stories from other farmers.

“Hearing about the experiences of Donald and David made it obvious that these health problems are real,” Mr Graham said.

“I am confident that there are health problems associated with the turbines but the industry won’t accept it.”

Friends of the Earth spokesperson Leigh Ewbank also attended the meeting.

Mr Ewbank said the meeting presented a balanced point of view and that the key take away point was that regardless of where people stood, it would be worthwhile to proceed with the feasibility study.

“The economic benefits for King Island are very large and the island could emerge as a true climate change champion,” he said.

Aside from the guest speakers the meeting highlighted that residents will continue for their right to vote on the feasibility study.

The No TasWind committee has called for a vote with a 75 per cent majority however Hydro Tasmania has rejected their request and will instead conduct an independent study with a 60pc majority.

Mr Brewster said it would seem that a vote was what most residents were wanting.

The next stage for the TasWind Consultative Committee will be organising three more speakers to share their stories, including a speaker to address environmental issues.

The No TasWind Committee held a meeting on Wednesday in which Sarah Laurie from the Waubra Foundation (anti-windfarm group) was a guest speaker.

27 thoughts on “King Island wind farm proposal: a case study in community engagement

  1. Good luck with the project and overcoming the unfounded fears of catching ‘Waubra Syndrome’. Unscientific nonsense designed to scare people!

      1. Yes! I am sure the good people of King Island will weigh up the great benefits and understand the ‘noise’ from turbines is like the background noise of the refrigerator motor in the home. I must admit it took me a while to get used to my new one, now I don’t even notice it.

  2. Hydro Tasmania should be commended for this outstanding community approach. I just hope the majority on the island doesn’t get scared by the unfounded fear campaign of the professional opponents. I think we should start researching the “Guardian-Syndrome” a lot of normal people suffer from when they get bombarded with the nonsense and intellectual vomit produced by the Anti Wind Farm Groups.

  3. Get off our Island! You are not welcome and not part of our community. It is a community decisions and we do not need outsiders like your organisation getting involved. F*&k Off!

    1. You’re right Katherine, it’s up to King Islanders to decide whether they support a feasibility study to make an informed decision about the TasWind proposal. As stated in the blog post, Yes 2 Renewables are interested in observing the community consultation process. TasWind’s community engagement model appears to be best practice. I trust you’d agree it’s important for independent parties to examine the process and see what works and what doesn’t. The lessons learned on King Island will improve the way in which renewable energy companies and communities work together in the future.

  4. I had a similar experience when I moved opposite a factory which had a large refrigeration unit operating 24/7. I could not sleep for the first week, lying there thinking about it. Then I stopped thinking about it and I no longer notice it at all.People who live next to railway lines and busy highways also become used to the noise. Its mind over matter. Let’s hope commonsense prevails!

  5. Excellent that you were able to be on King Island and engaging directly with the people there. My experience in talking with them online is that they are all committed to the future of KI, but have different visions of it. A couple of the residents are getting negative and hostile, but the overwhelming majority are working to find common ground with one another and also the larger community that’s paying attention to them. I’ve had very good conversations with people on KI that are for and against the wind farm, and am trying to make sure that whatever decision they make — and as you point it clearly it’s their decision — that they are able to do with it good information.

    I have one serious question. Did you have any King Island Roaring 40s Blue Cheese while you were there? That stuff is the bomb. We’ve been eating it on two continents so far.

  6. Would the community benefit much financially from this renewable energy generation? Would it help fund the meat processing facility they need? These income earners – along with their fabulous cheeses – would appear to make a very viable future for King Islanders. Can they hear from EU people who have lived with wind farms for many years?

  7. It is indeed a very trying time for us all on the Island as no one wants to do the wrong thing in making a decision that could affect our whole future, and indeed the future of others. Information is the key and balanced discussion has not always happened, which can often be the case when high emotions are in play. As Mike says, the majority are indeed trying. You must understand – 200 turbines each 150m high (much taller than Cape Wickham Lighthouse which is the biggest in the southern hemisphere). Put aside the roundabout of health discussions, we are only 64km long and 25km wide. Too many and too big. We already have 5, with plans for 3 more that, along with solar panels, water tanks and many private wind turbines, will make King Island almost fully renewable in energy. A massive underwater cable will be built to send 100% of the energy 200 turbines generate to those areas in Victoria that were rejected for wind farms. If ever there was a case for ‘nimbyism’?? although that is a word that is offensive when applied to everybody who raises objections. Please realise this is not a cut and dried debate.

  8. Thanks for the comment Liz. I wish King Islanders well as they debate the merits of the TasWind proposal.

    As I understand it, the TasWind project will connect King Island to the National Electricity Market (aka: the grid) for the first time. This infrastructure will facilitate the flow of electricity between the Island and mainland Australia. It’ll allow King Island to sell high-value renewable energy to the National Electricity Market. It will also allow for renewable energy generated in South Australia and Victoria to power King Island.

    As for the state of wind farms in Victoria, it’s not the case that people have rejected them. Polls show the vast majority of Victorians support more wind farms for our state and see them as good for manufacturing jobs. University of Sydney research shows 99.7% of Victorians living within five kilometres of wind farms do so without complaint. Furthermore, wind farm proposals are often enjoy strong community supported until anti-wind farm activists come to town with their scare campaign on health.

    The wind energy sector is struggling in Victoria due to laws introduced by former Premier Ted Baillieu in August 2011. Amendments made to the planning scheme banned wind farms in large swathes of the state. The VC82 amendments created ‘no-go’ zones for wind farms without any community consultation of economic modelling; gave land-owners, who are not beholden to the objectives of the Planning and Environment Act 1987, the right to veto wind farm proposals; and handed the planning approvals process to local government.

    Premier Baillieu had no credible reasons to support amendments to wind farm planning laws. A report by Royce Millar and Adam Morton for The Age helps explain the former Premier’s rationale for the restrictions:

    http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/against-the-wind-20120330-1w40m.html

    1. “Furthermore, wind farm proposals are often enjoy strong community supported until anti-wind farm activists come to town with their scare campaign on health.” Leigh this is just not true! Most people you’re right do support wind energy until a proposal is near them. It is because, especially in the early days cowboy developers with the support of the labor Government in Vic proposed turbines in inappropriate locations. That is why abuffer distance is important and necessary. I know where I live that turbines were univerally opposed as soon as the secret was out of the bag we had to seek out those who opposed turbines for support.

  9. Your ideas about king island being connected to the grid are superficially correct; however it is not “king Island” selling the power, it is /will be a consortium of mutlinationals (if previous history is a guide, then probably 75% chinese ), of which the australian component, Hydro Tas will be a minor participant. This is about $$$$’s. And $$$$’s for the usual few.
    Why would KI need to be hooked up to the grid? Bugger all people here to require it or industry for that matter, or didn’t you notice while on your visit? As Liz stated, KI is heading toward total renewables anyway.Ki is not going to be hooked up for any of its energy needs via this development, its quite mischevious for you to suggest so.
    Get real, the push for renewables is admirable and is not what people of KI are voicing their concerns about; its about about the large number and enormous dimensions of these industrial units, as well as the genuine health concerns.
    Why is it so hard for you to get the idea that some people just don’t want em! In this case some of the people of KI (MAYBE ALOT) don’t want YOUR wind turbines.
    I’m sure you’ve heard the expression act local think global, well KI is a great example of that.
    Where is the obligation on KI to provide its small beautiful landmass to these industrial triffids!
    I don’t believe you are giving an unbiased report in your article, how did you reach the conclusion that proceeding to feasability was “key” from the TWCC meeting. It seemed obvious that concerns about health effects and appropriate offsets and turbine design were the main topics mostly discussed.
    Or are you another mouthpiece for the “TASWIND” project like the local rag masquerading as a newspaper.
    Journalists? Ha!
    Independent? Double Ha!

  10. Liz / Sean interested to know if there are parts of KI or where you would be happy to see a few turbines? If there is a number that is OK or a number that is too much?

  11. I think you’ll find “a few” are not an option. KI needs maybe 1 or 2 of these new “big” units, any more would have to have some external supply offshore. to financially acheive this taswind/hydro require at least 200; there has been no negotiation on this number, in fact the number has been talked up to 250 by Hydro. What can I say? It seems non-negotiable. We already have “a few”.
    Tas wind reps have mentioned trying to accommodate 170 or so up north, lots of available land (non resident superannuation fund land) and less people. Talk about NIMBY! Sure bugger anybody up there with hopes and dreams for a beautiful lifestyle; divide an conquer mentality.

  12. Sean, you state that my comment about King Island being connected to the grid is “superficially correct.” Have you considered the impact this could have on electricity prices on the island?

    In regards to my comment about the “key take away” from the TWCC meeting, Councillor Gwenda Allgood and known anti-wind farm presenters Donald Thomas and David Mortimer all agreed that undertaking a feasibility study on the project was a sensible course of action. This view emerged clearly in the first TWCC session on April 19.

    Lastly, you state King Islanders are worried about ‘genuine health concerns’ which some attribute to wind energy. The following review conducted by the Victorian Department of Health, titled ‘Wind Farms, Sound and Health’, will be of interest to you. The Age newspaper reports:

    “The inaudible sound caused by wind farms is no worse than that from other rural and urban environments and does not affect human health, a review by the Victorian Department of Health has found.

    Some groups claim the inaudible noise from wind turbines, known as infrasound, can trigger health problems including dizziness, headaches, and insomnia. Together, the syndromes are sometimes described as ”wind turbine syndrome”.

    The Health Department review, released late last week, assessed the evidence and found it does not ”support claims that inaudible sounds can have direct physiological effects. Physiological effects on humans have only been detected at levels that are easily audible.”

    Read more here > http://ow.ly/kLQvI

    Cheers, L

  13. I think you may find that electricity prices may rise if you’re talking price parity.Technically I don’t believe the link to the grid is to be used for “powering” KI.See if you can get Hydro Tas to commit to such a proposal.
    Interesting you label Donald Thomas and David Mortimer “anti-wind farm presenters”.They are people with health problems which they believe are due to proximity to wind turbines. Initially these people supported the development of the wind farms. what is their agenda Leigh?
    As for Gwenda Allgood (and it was allgood!!), well her talk was very entertaining, just like the wizard of oz. Maybe he wrote the unbelievable diatribe for her. Funnily enough this talk was a repeat performance from a 5 year speech previously given.Not much changes in Ararat. Would you say Gwenda would be labelled a pro-wind farm presenter? And not a dissenting voice in the whole of the Ararat region. Unbelievable.
    As for the Vic health dept; gee what a coincidence? Baileau out, pro wind turbines Napthine in and all of a sudden the gov. health dept. puts out its “review”.if you can’t hear it, then it can’t harm you; yeah real deep. Why do you find it impossible to concede that real people may have real problems?
    Why do people leave their homes? Abandon places they built or bought to live in.What’s their agenda Leigh? This is an international problem and I’m surprised Friends of the Earth are so gullible believing such right wing mumbo jumbo such as NOCEBO.. this isn’t about saving the planet Leigh, its about big business. Guess you’re group are another bunch of right wing flunkys doing the bidding for “the man”.

    1. Seems to me we have another person who doesn’t accept science as it does not support their views. This is a common issue with the anti-wind farm campaigners. They only accept favourable reports and as soon as a truly independent view presents something different from their skewed opinion they become personal. Yes, of course Hydro Tasmania wants to make money with the wind farm (as does everyone who has a business or farm) and yes, the wind farm may be exporting power to Victoria. Well, that’s a good thing as it would allow reducing the operation of carbon emitting power stations in that state. Isn’t that a good thing? The problem with the so called health effects is that they only occur with people who are somewhat close to Landscape Guardians, maybe that’s where the health problem comes from…

  14. Why do you find it impossible to concede that real people may have real problems?

    Real problems – Yep. Coz of wind farms – Na.

  15. From your own website, FoE was founded on “grass roots community activism”-exactly how the NO TasWind Farm Group on King Island was formed.Sadly, it seems FoE has morphed into that which it was formed to challenge, i.e., spurious ‘establishment’ projects and positions. FoE now prefers to demonise grass roots dissent rather than standing side by side helping prevent the vandalisation of a unique Bass Strait island.

  16. Interesting that the very widely discredited concept that wind farms cause health impacts is raising its head still. Every time a group of independent, accredited public health professionals get together and review the evidence, they state unequivocally that wind farms don’t harm health. They all agree that a very small number of people close to wind farms find the noise annoying; that’s accepted fact. However, the evidence from University of Nottingham research is that annoyance is not related to the level of sound at all, but is strongly correlated to the personality traits of the person who is annoyed and to negative attitudes to wind energy in general. Effectively, some people will be annoyed by anything, and in this case it happens to be wind noise.

    This follows on findings out of Denmark by Pedersen et al that annoyance due to noise is much, much greater among people not receiving fairly direct economic rewards from the wind farm and among those would could actually see a wind turbine. And it follows on historical and ongoing research about noise annoyance unrelated to wind turbines that finds exactly the same things.

    This ties into Prof Chapman’s and Ms. Fiona Crichton’s recently published research. Prof Chapman and team found that complaints related to wind farms were strongly correlated to anti-wind campaigns. Ms. Crichton’s research found that symptoms claimed by anti-wind campaigners as being related to infrasound from wind turbine could be created merely by showing people anti-wind video material and then telling them that they were being exposed to infrasound.

    The combined research is pretty clear. Health impacts are real. People are annoyed and stressed. People are losing sleep. Loss of sleep does have pretty serious consequences. But the reason why people are stressed and losing sleep is anti-wind campaigners creating fear, stress and negative attitudes to wind farms, not the wind farms.

    For full references for both the medical situation and infrasound in particular, please see this material:
    http://barnardonwind.wordpress.com/2013/02/17/wind-farms-dont-make-people-sick-so-why-the-complaints/

    http://barnardonwind.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/humans-evolved-with-infrasound-is-there-any-truth-to-health-concerns-about-it/

  17. I’ve enjoyed many a working visit to King Island. Recommend it to anyone.
    Interestingly some posts here oppose the ‘outsiders’ and yet have those same people thought it is ‘outsiders’ that will finance, build and profit from the venture.
    I was all for (in my mind) the venture but reading comments from all sides I now see a different view.
    Probably the locals with most to gain will be the land owners whose farms the towers will be built on.
    Here on mainland Tassie we also have Chinese owned farms. What would stop that happening on King Island as owners move on?
    I would encourage King Island to pursue independence from oil, and that can only be good for all.
    I expect the $$ oversees a lot.
    Don’t stuff up the beautiful place. I always found King Islanders beautiful people. Its a different lifestyle that has to be experienced to understand.
    That is your asset in my view.
    Keep that and if wind farms can fit in an not destroy that then it should work.
    If not then it asks the question what is more important in life.

  18. It would be wonderful if the King Islanders could have a community-owned wind farm where everyone benefits from the profits. Maybe start small and see how that works? Why do some people choose to see these majestic towers – that are saving carbon emissions while allowing us to meet our energy needs – as ugly? Good luck with your decision.

    1. Judy, like so many “contributors” to the King Island Wind Farm debate, you broadcast your opinion from interstate, probably having never been to King Island…otherwise you would be aware that we have our own sustainable wind generation plant here-combined with solar and diesel back-up.

      1. That’s great Tiggie that you have a set up already. And no locals have become sick? Sadly I have not been to King island. Have eaten your excellent cheeses though. I wish you could get your abattoir operating again for the good of the community.

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