Feasibility study to prioritise community concerns

24 June 2013

Hydro Tasmania has welcomed the results of a survey of King Island residents and landowners on its proposal to develop a 200-turbine wind farm on the island.

Hydro Tasmania’s Andrew Catchpole said the survey, undertaken by market research company EMRS, had an excellent response rate of 878, of which 59 per cent indicated support for a feasibility study to proceed on the TasWind project. (More information on the results of the survey is available on the EMRS website.)

“Hydro Tasmania would first like to thank the people of King Island for their engagement with the TasWind project over the past six months,” Mr Catchpole said. “The level of response to the survey is indicative of the engagement of the community throughout this initial consultation period.”

“We also would like to thank them for supporting the TasWind project.”

Hydro Tasmania has emphasised that this was not a question about the project going ahead, but seeking broad community support to undertake a feasibility study.

“I know some have implied that the figure of 60 is a number that will determine if the project goes ahead or not. However, we have always said that 60 per cent would be a good indication of broad community support. We got 59 per cent and that is a very good result.”

Mr Catchpole said Hydro Tasmania recognised that there are many people on King Island concerned about the idea of a wind farm.

Hydro Tasmania’s Board has been following the debate in the community and considering the issues and various scenarios for the outcome of the community survey for many months.

While the matter was on the agenda for this week’s scheduled Board meeting, the Board decided to discuss the matter out of session and make a decision so there was no period of uncertainty, particularly on King Island.

Mr Catchpole said the Board is unanimously of the view that Hydro Tasmania should proceed with the feasibility study, but in a careful manner that is sensitive to the concerns of the community.

“From our consultation process we understand that the principal concern of the community is the visual impact of the wind farm, closely followed by the noise and health impact concerns,” he said.

“Consequently, we will focus as a matter of priority on resolving the elements of wind farm feasibility that have the most impact on these concerns, especially location, so that we can address these areas of concern.

“To do this we will need to undertake further wind measurements and discuss potential sites with landowners so that we can model an actual proposed location along with continuing to analyse the economic viability of the wind farm. We will also undertake a brand impact assessment, so the community can better understand the risks and benefits of this project to the King Island brand.”

Through these activities, Hydro Tasmania expects to be able to devise a model of the proposed wind farm layout, and provide an opportunity for the King Island community to provide feedback on that model before undertaking further aspects of the feasibility process.

Hydro Tasmania will continue to consult with the community.

“We have given a commitment that if TasWind proceeded to feasibility the King Island community would have another chance to have its say before any development application was lodged,” Mr Catchpole said.

If built there would be significant ongoing benefits to King Island, including an annual Community fund of around $1 million. This could be spent on ensuring cheaper power for all households and businesses or upgrading community infrastructure on the island.

If the project proceeds, there would be around 500 jobs created and considerable investment on the island during construction.

“While we believe the project if it proceeds to construction will have a significant and positive impact on the island’s economy there is a long way to go before that happens,” Mr Catchpole said.

“I can only repeat that this project will not proceed without ongoing broad community support.”

For more information please contact Samantha Meyer on 03 6230 5746.

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