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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Chalumbin Wind Farm redesigned


THE controversial Chalumbin Wind Farm proposed for the Tablelands has undergone drastic changes and the project virtually been halved after a redesign by host property, Wooroora Pastoral Station.

The Chalumbin Wind Farm, now renamed the Wooroora Station Wind Farm, has been a hot topic of debate since its announcement in with multiple conservation groups and State and Federal politicians fervently opposing the development.

The wind farm is being proposed by Ark Energy and is currently waiting the final tick of approval from Federal Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek.

Bordering on national parks that form part of the Wet Tropics Queensland World Heritage Area, concerns have been raised about the irreversible damage the wind farm would do to native fauna and flora.

To address these environmental concerns, the project was scaled back to 86 turbines instead of the original 200 turbines and has now seen further reduction with an additional 44 turbines removed in the updated design.

The new design includes a minimum buffer of 1km to neighbouring World Heritage areas, and completely avoids wet sclerophyll forest adjoining the World Heritage Area as well as all known magnificent brood frog habitat.

Member for Hill Shane Knuth has opposed the wind farm development since it was announced and while he welcomes the reduction, he believes it doesn’t go far enough.

“If there is a town that has been continually done over by windfarm developments, then Ravenshoe would be top of the list,” he said.

“I will continue to stand with the community against this project and any proposed new wind farms in the region.”

A nature positive plan includes rehabilitation of most of the construction disturbance and the establishment of magnificent brood frog nature reserves totalling 1,255 hectares.

It also includes First Nations-led fire management and control of widespread feral pests (pigs, dogs, and cats) and invasive weeds, to improve the host property’s habitat for key species including the northern greater glider, masked owl, and spectacled flying-fox. 

“These changes reduce the impacts to very low levels and we believe the benefits to the natural environment of this project far outweigh its impacts,” Ark Energy General Manager Development for Queensland Anthony Russo said.

“After extensive public consultation, we have listened to feedback from the community, government, and the traditional owners, and made changes to the project to meet expectations. 

We look forward to working with all key stakeholders to achieve positive outcomes and we are committed to getting this project right from the outset and delivering on world’s best practice in the energy sector.

“We must navigate the tension between the construction required to transition to a clean energy system and protecting nature, and this project’s evolution offers an excellent case study of major design iterations to achieve nature positive outcomes.” 

After rehabilitation of the temporary construction disturbance the wind farm would have an operational footprint of approximately 57.6 hectares.

It is hoped that the new name will also help to address a misunderstanding that the development could impact a nearby wilderness area also known as ‘Chalumbin’. 

“Some opponents took advantage of the former name to spread misinformation and make unsubstantiated claims about what kind of habitat and species are in the project area and therefore the environmental impacts of the development. 

“The reality is the project is not within the World Heritage area and it is important that the project is represented accurately and the public have the facts,” said Mr Russo.

A variation has been lodged with the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, which is currently assessing the proposal.

More information on the project is available online here wooroorastationwindfarm.com.au  and a video on the evolution of the proposal featuring the Traditional Owners is available here.

Keep up with the latest news in Cairns and the Far North, and check out some of our top stories this week: Sovereign citizens spread radicalism and Encouraging international students to choose Cairns.

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