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.
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.