Community & Business

18 February, 2024

Decision on new wind farm due in April

A DECISION on whether a new wind farm will be established 15km west of Ravenshoe will be made by Federal Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek by mid-April.

Decision on new wind farm due in April - feature photo

The Wooroora Station wind farm, as it is now known, has been a contentious proposal for more than two years, with some locals and environmentalists opposed to its location and potential negative impact upon wildlife.

Initially, it was known as Chalumbin wind farm and was set to accommodate 200 turbines across two pastoral properties, but that was reduced to 86 turbines in 2022, and again in September 2023 when the company behind the project, Ark Energy, announced it would only host 42 turbines. 

But that did little to calm opponents who are frustrated by the wait for the decision.

“The entire process had taken a massive toll on those affected and those who have been fighting against the development now for two-and-a-half years,” opponent Matt Lachlan said.

“It is mentally exhausting to be honest. The entire process has been extremely frustrating to be honest.”

Mr Lachlan said locals had not been informed of what was happening.

“There is no engagement by the Federal Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water to keep the community apprised of what is going on.

“If Chalumbin is approved, I shudder to think of the consequences – basically if the doorstep to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and habitat critical to the survival of endangered species is deemed an acceptable location for an industrial wind turbine development, it’s virtually open slather for developers in the name of this so-called ‘green energy’ that is anything but.”

An official notification published by the department states that the proposed project was granted an extension of 40 business days, meaning Minister Plibersek must make a decision by 12 April.

Tablelands Regional Council gave its formal support to the project, a move that upset some locals but the project has now received even more support from the business community.

“We’ve been hearing more and more from the Traditional Owners, local business people, community members and members of council, about the benefits and opportunities they see in this project for the local area, and that they are keen for it to get underway,” Ark Energy’s general manager of development in Queensland, Anthony Russo said.

“At a recent supplier event we hosted in Ravenshoe more than 50 local business representatives came along, interested to find out more about how they can be involved. 

“It’s clear that the majority of the business community in the Tablelands want this project to proceed, as do the Traditional Owners. They see the significant socio-economic benefits it will bring, and they’re waiting for it to be approved so that can be unlocked.”

He said the Jirrbal people had an Indigenous Land Use Agreement with the project, which included caring for Country and having their people trained and employed to manage the land over the life of the project including feral animals and invasive weeds.

“Opponents to this project are claiming it’s poorly sited because it is next to world heritage area, but the fact is the site is a privately-owned cattle grazing property with widespread feral pests and invasive weeds, and most of the boundary between the two includes a high voltage transmission line corridor,” Mr Russo said.

“The opportunity to improve the habitat value of the host property is huge, but it will take work and investment. The proposal has put forward a raft of commitments to improve the habitat values of the property, including integrated pest and fire management regimes involving the Traditional Owners, local ecology stakeholders and scientists. 

“It is precisely because the land is next to the world heritage area that the opportunity to improve it is more compelling. Only two protected fauna species have been found on the host property, and while the construction may impact on some potential habitat for those two, there are commitments to improve habitat for those species plus others a lot more over the longer term. 

“Anyone claiming that this project isn’t a win for nature and key species either hasn’t read the details of the proposal or doesn’t understand the science.”


Most Popular