So King Islanders – ready to sell your Souls? Be warned – this time, the Devil ain’t got no fiddle of gold to trade – only a generation of misery.
STT has already reported on the King Island “cash for votes scandal” and looked at the other deceptive methods used by Tasmanian Hydro to bring about a Chinese takeover of the Bass Strait Jewel as told by local STT Champion, Donald Graham.
Here’s The Australian’s take on the case to save King Island from the threat of turbine terror.
Islanders torn on turbines
1 June 2013
KING Islanders have always endured the Roaring 40s, but plans for a giant wind farm to harness the notorious westerlies have split the rusted-together community, before a crucial vote on the issue.
Islanders will begin voting in a postal ballot next Friday on whether the $2 billion wind farm — the southern hemisphere’s largest — should proceed to a full feasibility process.
Despite supporting a yes vote, the island’s mayor, Greg Barratt, said he might never have agreed to consider the plan had he known how it would split the 1560 islanders.
“The amount of nastiness that’s come into the debate has really surprised me,” Mr Barratt said. “I’m quite appalled. I just didn’t contemplate that anything like that would happen because we’ve always been a very close-knit community. We’ve always battled away together at all the issues we face here: expensive freight, the high cost of living. If I had thought what has happened — the split in the community — was going to happen, I wouldn’t have been very keen on the discussion.”
Families are divided and friendships strained amid accusations of scaremongering, dirty tricks and even bribery.
King Island’s location — roughly halfway between Tasmania and Victoria, in the path of the Roaring 40s — makes it one of the country’s best places for wind farms. However, the scale of the TasWind project, proposed by state-owned Hydro Tasmania, has alarmed and angered many.
Each of the 200 turbine towers would reach 150m from base to top blade tip. That is three times the height of the island’s Cape Wickham lighthouse — Australia’s largest — and more than twice the height of Tasmania’s tallest building, Wrest Point Casino.
These giant windmills will be spread over 20 per cent of the island’s low-lying, undeveloped landscape, each visible from a distance of 20km.
The biggest project for Tasmania since Gunns’ pulp mill, it promises a $3 million to $4m annual income stream and infrastructure upgrades for a struggling island economy. However, Hydro, recognising it needs the backing of most islanders to avoid a Gunns-style backlash, has agreed to hold a postal ballot from Friday to determine if the project proceeds to full feasibility.
Hydro, which would seek an equity partner for the project — most likely Chinese firm Shenhua, with which it has links — has promised to walk away if the ballot returns a yes vote of less than 60 per cent. This is despite the fact that the project, using a new undersea cable to export 2400 gigawatt hours of energy to Victoria, could pave the way for a boom in the export of renewable power from Tasmania to the mainland.
The stakes are also high for many islanders. Some will quit the island if there is a yes vote, believing its peaceful character will be destroyed. “If they go to full feasibility, I want to leave,” says Kelly Lancaster.
Ms Lancaster’s dairy farmer husband, Philip, a third-generation islander, also fears the towers’ visual and noise impact will make his home uninhabitable. “Everywhere we look will be wind towers,” he said. “All the benefits they might bring are worth nothing if we can’t live here.”
A little further north on the 64km-long, 26km-wide island, Ms Lancaster’s sister Donna Millwood and her husband, Josh, dismiss such talk as “negative”.
“I think if a wind farm could fit in with King Island, it could be really good for the economy,” Mr Millwood said.
Like his brother-in-law and 12 others, he provides milk to the island’s famous cheese factory.
Unlike Mr Lancaster, Mr Millwood would consider allowing TasWind to site some of its 40-storey towers on his property, believing the rental income could be useful supplementary cash for hard-pressed farmers.
“Landowners will benefit from it and every bit of money we make is spent in the community, so the whole island will benefit,” Mr Millwood said.
Hydro has dangled a number of cash carrots in the face of a community doing it tough after the recent closure of its abattoir, which has forced beef farmers to ship cattle to Tasmania for slaughter, at great cost. Hydro has flagged providing funds to reopen the abattoir and to help kickstart the resurrection of a scheelite mine by providing cheap power, contingent on TasWinds proceeding.
John Brewster, a farm owner who chairs a TasWind community consultative committee, is calling on the company to be more explicit about the abattoir promise — a key issue that could sway the vote.
“It’s ‘mights’ and ‘ifs’ at the moment; it does need to be clarified,” Mr Brewster said.
“And to rely on something, it needs to be more than clarified; it needs to be guaranteed.”
Hydro has relocated TasWind senior project manager Pat Burke to the island to live and play footy among its people and explain the company’s intentions.
The young manager confirms only that Hydro is willing to spend “hundreds of thousands” on progressing an abattoir “solution” if islanders vote to allow the project to proceed to feasibility stage.
There would then be “millions” for the abattoir if the project was constructed. He denies Hydro is bribing locals.
“The community have told us that in order for this project to go ahead there needs to be substantial community benefits,” Mr Burke said. “All we are doing is listening to them.”
The No TasWind Farm Group has formed and raised the ire of some by hiring a Sydney-based public relations firm to help sell its case. The group’s vice-chairman, retired cattle farmer Donald Graham, argues that locals needed help in combating Hydro’s PR machine. Even so, he believes the no case is simple enough.
“It’s just not appropriate in scale for the size of the island, which has a clean, productive, remote and, most of all, uncluttered atmosphere,” Mr Graham said.
In a setback for Hydro, an independent analysis commissioned by the consultative committee concluded that in the long term the island would be $36m a year better off without TasWind.
This finding, by consultants CH2MHILL, is based on the assumption that the project would damage tourism, particularly golf tourism. Two international links golf courses, with accommodation, are in development and CH2MHILL concluded the wind farm would slow tourism growth from 6 per cent a year to 4 per cent.
The report also estimates that up to half the payments Hydro has promised to landowners for housing the towers would flow to corporate farmers based offshore.
Hydro hotly disputes many of the findings, while the backers of the golf developments have mixed views: one backing the consultants’ analysis, another rejecting it.
Mark Jacobson, who works in one of the island’s most iconic industries, kelp harvesting, is urging islanders to allow the project to proceed to full feasibility.
“There are so many negative arguments — fear-based stuff like wind turbine syndrome or land prices or green scams — and when you are bombarded with this all the time it makes people feel negative,” he says.
“I’ve got friends who are convinced that all people are going to think about when they think about King Island is wind turbines; nothing to do with cheese or golf any more. I can’t deny that’s a possibility. But I don’t see how we can know those things if we don’t go to feasibility.”
If the island votes to allow the project to proceed to full feasibility, Hydro is promising a second vote before construction could go ahead.
However, many islanders believe that by then the project would be unstoppable.
STT wonders if the kelp harvester, Mark Jacobson would be quite so upbeat about the proposal if either the turbines were being placed right next to his family’s home or located offshore in the middle of his kelp beds?
STT says that any doubts Mr Jacobson has about the downside of having 200 (or what, in reality, will be 600) giant wind turbines lobbed onto his island paradise would be quite easily removed by a trip to Macarthur – it is just a hop, skip and a jump over the ditch – so why not take a look, Mark – and take a plane load of wind farm supporters with you. Then drop in on Annie Gardner for a cuppa.
It’s not as if the threat to King Island is the first time Big Wind has stormed in and wrecked a peaceful and productive agricultural community.
And it’s good to see that Tasmanian Hydro has sent an ambassador to deal with the Islanders “concerns”. No doubt these “serious concerns” will be dealt with straight from the playbook, as we detailed in our little piece on RATCH’s efforts to win hearts and minds at Collector.
So Islanders, expect Tasmanian Hydro’s ambassador to offer to meet you one on one in your homes over cups of tea. Where, with soothing words, you’ll be told that the noise from turbines will meet the toughest standards in the world; you’ll be told about the hundreds of jobs that will come to the island (never mind that the crane drivers will all be Irish and the rest will be seasoned Transfield workers from the Mainland); that they will buy you a new fire truck, new footy jumpers and otherwise promise you the earth.
But don’t expect their ambassador to front a group tooled up with information about the greatest fraud in Australian history; and ready to pump him about just who pays for their homes when they can no longer live in them; or for their farms and dairies when they can no longer work them.
We note too, Mr Brewster calling for Tasmanian Hydro’s promises to back the abattoir “to be guaranteed” by the Company.
Well, as they say: “good luck with that”.
Next time their ambassador pops in to discuss your “concerns” and layout their vision of a turbine filled future for you and your family, ask him whether his corporate Overlords are willing to back their claims that there will be no adverse health effects, like sleep disturbance, with a written guarantee (drawn up by your own friendly solicitor).
The guarantee should include a term that Tasmanian Hydro (or the Chinese outfit that are really behind this) will buy out your home or property at current market rates, if you can no longer live in it or work on it.
Don’t forget to ask that the guarantee be backed up by valuable security (eg, a mortgage over real property owned by a director of the company). Remember that the corporate vehicles wind farm developers use to operate wind farms are usually completely devoid of any assets. If you think we are joking, here are 3 serious words: “Babcock and Brown” – now reduced to 1: “Infigen“.
This, quite reasonable request, will be a test of just how “concerned” Tasmanian Hydro is about your future.
King Islanders, see you at the Rally, June 18, Parliament House, Canberra. You bring the cheese, the South Aussies will bring the Red.
A great Cheese, deserves a great Red. Cheers!
9 thoughts on “The Devil went down to King Island and he was looking to make a deal”
To King Islanders
Wind companies will lie and cheat to get OUR money to build these monstrosities. I live near the Macarthur WEF. My life has changed.
Now when I drive to Hamilton I cringe as I drive under blades coming at me at 200/300 kms per hour. I am surrounded by these towers in every direction and I can’t see a clear horizon. From our home our view of the sunset is blighted by these industrial machines. Evenings watching the football have to compete with the noise coming from the turbines.
I have been fortunate until about a month or two ago. I was not feeling any effects even though my husband has had disrupted sleep since the turbines began turning in October, and friends have suffered headaches and pressure. Recently I have started waking in the early hours of the morning and am unable to go back to sleep. I also feel nauseous most mornings, and can no longer eat the breakfast I woke up to for years.
There are people several kilometres from the nearest turbine who are suffering sleep deprivation and other symptoms. There will not be a boost to tourism. There will not be a boom in jobs. I urge you to say NO, NO, NO!!! Continue to live on and love your beautiful island. One day I hope to visit – but not if you have turbines.
To All King Islanders,
Come and look at what happened to the town of Waterloo SA, when the Roaring 40s came. Big promises, they told us we wouldn’t even hear them. Waterloo is a disaster zone.
DON”T believe a word of what they tell you. Do your own research. Ask them next time their ambassador pops in to discuss your “concerns” and ask him whether they are willing to back their claims, that there will be no adverse health effects, like sleep disturbance, with a written guarantee? Ask all the people to get that in writing at any meetings they go to. Where Industrial Wind Turbines are to be BUILT ask them to guarantee that your Home will NOT lose value, and if it dos, that they will buy it from you? All in Black and white.
All that STT have said above is true, it happens all around the world.
Put simply, once the Wind Turbines are built, the “GENIE ” (and a not very pleasant one) is out of the bottle and there is no putting him back in.
You will have to live with your regrets for 25 years maybe. How will your community live with it for this length of time when it hasn’t been built and you’re like us and tearing yourselves apart?
At least you have a say in it – we didn’t.
My advice is to be bloody grateful you have a choice, learn by other
people’s misfortune and don’t accept the 30 pieces of tainted
King Islanders – Do not under ANY circumstances allow for more industrial wind turbines.
Make no mistake, the proponent will say and do virtually anything to continue to divide your community because ultimately it is in their (big taxpayer funded windfalls) interest.
Fractured communities are weak communities, ripe for picking by “big wind”. We used to be on good terms with 8-10 neighbours – we now speak to no one at all in our area. This is what they do, often supported with lame arguments in favour by councils that are supposed to represent the general ratepayer.
Some years ago at a meeting (recorded by ABC) called by Palerang council, just 2 days before submissions to planning were due in regard to Infigen installing 67 giant wind turbines on the eastern side of Lake George (a listed and gazetted bird and wildlife sanctuary since 1919), someone at that meeting asked if they would be affected by noise from the turbines. ‘No’ said an Infigen spokesman. When asked if Infigen would put this in writing the reply was again ‘no’.
Turbines went up – complaints started immediately and have continued since.
Please do your homework. 200-600-1000 wind turbines. This is just the start. Lake George started with ‘only’ 67- now it’s 90 and approval (easily obtained) has been granted for another 44-50 in a straight line directly at the lake’s edge. Infigen knows that there is room for hundreds more. And all this in the name of ‘climate change’. If you value your community don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it.
As we know, the Shenhua Group, China’s largest coal producer, is behind Hydro Tasmania’s push to build a 200 (or 600?) turbine, industrial wind factory (IWF) on King Island. What people might not be aware of is that while Hydro Tasmania is actively extolling the planet-saving virtues of the proposed project, the Shenhua Group in China is building a massive $10 billion coal to liquids plant (a huge producer of carbon dioxide).
Now some might say that by building a King Island IWF, Shenhua would simply be atoning for its sins in China. But another view could be that Shenhua is cashing in on the “free money” available in gullible Australia. After all, they would get a guaranteed market for the electricity produced, as well as trousering at least another $65 million per year, thanks to the LGC/REC rip-off. That King Island becomes uninhabitable in the process, well that’s just collateral damage I guess.
Disclaimer: While I have no problems with Shenhua creating plant food, thereby helping the biosphere, I can imagine there may be folks who take a dim view.
To All King Islanders,
The most important asset you all have is your pristine and beautiful Island. The second most important asset you all have is your island community. I cannot emphasise enough to each and every one of you that if you don’t support throwing out this wind energy proposal, you will have neither your island nor community left. I assure you that any feasibility study will give the project the go ahead.
From personal experience gained over nearly ten years, your beautiful landscape will be destroyed (visit Macarthur), your land will be devalued (as documented), your community will become even more divided and tragically some people will suffer personal and serious health effects (as documented worldwide). This is not sent as scaremongering, just facts as to what actually happens in every community where a wind energy facility (WEF) is constructed.
Tragically money proffered now, will be the ruination in the future of your Island. Preserve what you have, the rest of the world would love to live where you do.