Environment advocates from Tasmania's north-west want seat at energy table

Environment advocates from Tasmania’s north-west want seat at energy table

As industry held its fourth annual Tasmanian Energy Development Conference in Devonport this week, about 40 citizens stood outside in the rain with handheld signs to advocate for Tasmanian energy issues.

As the state’s “largest energy event of the year”, the two-day event cost $2,000 per ticket and claimed to bring together key industry stakeholders from Tasmania and interstate for networking opportunities, including drinks and a conference dinner, as part of the “all – encompassing industry experience”.

Outside the private conference at the Paranaple Arts Centre, advocates were raising issues such as the location of wind turbines and transmission lines in the state.

One of the community members was David Ridley, who said he felt locked out of the conversation.

As chair of the No Turbine Action Group Central Highlands, he has been fighting for two years to get a representative at the conference.

“On one hand the government is saying ‘community matters, we’re a pillar of renewable energy development’, and on the other hand there is no community representative that is a local, that can speak at the conference and help that group get a social license,” Mr Ridley said.

Tasmania’s Minister for Energy and Renewables Guy Barnett was the conference’s opening keynote speaker.

He told the ABC while it was important to listen to the community he could not intervene to help the group as the event was private.

Secretary of Respect Stanley Peninsula – No Wind Turbines Incorporated, Kerry Houston, said she organized the protest to raise awareness about the failings in current Tasmanian renewable energy policies.

“We’re looking for five-kilometre buffer zones between communities and these massive infrastructure projects,” Ms Houston said.

“Our special landscapes that make Tasmania so iconic need to be protected with no-go zones.

“It’s not an unreasonable request.

“The five-kilometre buffer comes from the energy infrastructure commissioner so there is research behind this. Our government is simply not listening.”

A minister said it was important to listen to communities, but the event was private.(ABC Northern Tasmania: Cassandra Power)

Another rallying outside the event, Malcolm Crosse, was the past director of operations for the World Fly Fishing Championships held in Tasmania in 2019, and claimed to be a great believer in the renewables industry.

But Mr Crosse said a development at St Patrick Plains, which is set to build 47 wind turbines in central Tasmania, “came of out nowhere” two years ago.

He said he was greatly concerned about Tasmanian flora and fauna, including the wedge-tailed eagle and the orange-bellied parrot.

“I’m a great believer of renewable energy, but it’s in the wrong place,” Mr Crosse said.

“We haven’t had the opportunity to be able to have a conversation. We want a seat at the table upstairs, but we were ignored.”

“I’m a passionate fly fisherman and I’m greatly disturbed by the fact there is going to be a visual impact, and a noise impact, on this area recognised worldwide for its fly fishing and ambience.

“I just need to be here to voice my concerns.”

Organisers of the Tasmanian Energy Development Conference would not answer questions put to them by the ABC.

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