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Hartwig: Toolara wind farm comments not endorsed by council

REPRESENTATIONS made by Gympie Regional Council staff about a proposed $2 billion wind farm in the region were given without council's consent, Mayor Glen Hartwig has said.

In a letter to the State Development, Tourism, Innovation and Manufacturing Committee on the Forest Wind Farm Development Bill, Mr Hartwig said there had been "failure within our organisation" when it came to the submissions made.

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"I wish to inform the committee that the detail and expressed views are of the staff member and not endorsed by council," the letter said.

Mayor Glen Hartwig says an ‘organisational failure’ resulted in council staff submissions being made without endorsement.
Mayor Glen Hartwig says an ‘organisational failure’ resulted in council staff submissions being made without endorsement.

"There was a failure within our management and the actions and representations made were without the consent or direction of council."

He said councillors were concerned about a "lack of adequate consultation with the community on the aspects of this project".

Two submissions were made to the State committee by council staff last month.

One from planning and development expressed "in principle support" for the wind farm bill.

"Through its three-four year development and implementation stages, this $2 billion project will provide immense economic value and benefits to the Gympie economy and community," the submission said.

The $2 billion wind farm is proposed to be built in and around the Toolara Forest. Photo: Emily Bradfield
The $2 billion wind farm is proposed to be built in and around the Toolara Forest. Photo: Emily Bradfield

The submission from the council's economic development branch said the wind farm would go a "long away" to achieving the Gympie energy target and was "an important investment in the Gympie and Wide Bay-Burnett regions, towards getting both economies moving again".

In a public hearing, Gympie Futures senior adviser Will Gerhard told the committee the project presented opportunities beyond power generation.

"Our tourism sector has taken a huge hit, as you can imagine, like most of Queensland in recent times," Mr Gerhard said.

"This is an opportunity.

"There are people who are keen to see wind farms.

"We have been out to other wind farm projects to have a look.

Council staff said the wind farm will go a long way to the region achieving its energy target.
Council staff said the wind farm will go a long way to the region achieving its energy target.

"If people are coming all the way out here, they will likely stay overnight and therefore assist our accommodation facilities.

"The opportunity is there to use our other tourism assets in the region - the Mary Valley and so forth."

Two members of the committee, LNP MPs Jon Krause and Mark Boothman, said the committee's consideration of the proposed bill "revealed that the Palaszczuk Labor Government has been progressing this project for three years in secret".

Despite this, the MPs said the first in-person meeting with affected residents was only held in 2020 and "even the consultation that was undertaken left residents feeling disengaged".

LNP Member for Theodore Mark Boothman says the committee into the bill revealed the State had been secretly working on the wind farm proposal for three years. Picture: Jerad Williams
LNP Member for Theodore Mark Boothman says the committee into the bill revealed the State had been secretly working on the wind farm proposal for three years. Picture: Jerad Williams

"While the project proponent may profess that there is still a process to go in their consultation program before construction starts, the reality is that … Labor Government is introducing this Bill with what appears to be a predetermined approval outcome."

Mr Hartwig said in an interview the project would be supported if it stacked up but so far the community was still in the dark on several things, including the powerlines.

Gympie Times

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