One of Australia's largest renewable energy developers, Epuron, is pushing forward with its proposed 95 wind-turbine farm in Far North Queensland, despite strong community opposition.
The Chalumbin Wind Farm will see 95 wind turbine generators located across two long-held cattle grazing properties, Glen Gordon and Wooroora Station, located 15 kilometres southwest of Ravenshoe on the southern Tablelands.
With a height of 160 metres and a blade width of 90m, the turbines would be among the largest in Australia and some will be within 500m of the Koombooloomba National Park boundary.
The current project design involves clearing about 1250 hectares (3089 acres) within a land area of 31,500ha.
The planning and assessment phase of the project will involve locally based specialists and workers, providing 250-350 jobs during the construction phase, and 15-30 ongoing jobs for operation.
The Traditional Owners of the area, the Jirrbal people, hold serious concerns that the proposed wind farm threatens land bordering the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, which is home to 200 recorded species of animals, and three endangered species including the Red Goshawk, Magnificent Brood Frog, and the Northern Greater Glider.
Atherton Tablelands advocate Matt Lachlan is strongly opposing the project. Mr Lachlan, who set up the stopchalumbinwindfarm.com website said the development would lead to severe wildlife fragmentation with the maze of roads and infrastructure.
"The developer's EPBC Act referral acknowledges the development 'may lead to the clearing of habitat critical to the survival of' these endangered species," Mr Lachlan said.
"I acknowledge that the developer is spruiking the construction jobs as a lever to gain community support. The reality is post-construction this development will provide as few as 10 jobs, many of which will require specialist skills.
"The short-term benefit created by construction jobs can not be offset by the long-term devastation this will create for the environment."
Epuron development director Paul Stangroom assured the community of Ravenshoe that the project was subject to a rigorous and comprehensive environmental impact assessment process with special attention given to key species.
Mr Stangroom said minimising impacts to local flora and fauna was a priority.
"As the environmental assessment work is being done, the project design is being refined and modified accordingly, in consultation with ecological experts and key stakeholders," he said.
"The project has been designed to avoid all direct impacts on the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area and does not involve clearing any rainforest.
"Epuron is a signatory to the Clean Energy Council's best practice charter for renewable energy developments, which is a commitment to engage respectfully with communities, be sensitive to environmental and cultural values, and make a positive contribution to the regions in which we operate.
"We welcome input from the community, and are listening carefully to concerns and working to address them."
Mr Stangroom said an assessment work is currently underway by an independent ecology specialists and Epuron estimates a draft Public Environment Report will be ready to submit in early 2022.
"Increasing renewable energy capacity and protecting local wildlife are both critically important and compatible objectives - it just requires careful planning and management, and the right approach," he said.
"Renewable energy is now the cheapest form of power and the Queensland Government has a target to achieve 50 per cent renewable energy generation by 2030.
"New projects will give the Tablelands region an opportunity to benefit from this clean energy transition, particularly with large numbers of jobs and a significant boost for the local economy and businesses during project construction periods."
Katter's Australian Party state Member for Hill Shane Knuth and federal Member for Kennedy Bob Katter have launched a petition to block the proposed Chalumbin Wind Farm from going ahead.
On Tuesday morning it had received 643 signatures.
Mr Knuth said both he and Mr Katter were not against all wind farms, but would request the Parliament to block the proposed wind farm development at Ravenshoe from going ahead.
"Destroying critical ecology and habitat is a bad way to generate costly, unreliable, and minimal 'green' power," he said.
"There are many concerned residents within the region that want to see this development stopped."
North Queensland Register has contacted Wooroora Station and the owners of Glen Gordon Station, but the owner declined to comment on the project.
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