Released documents show Ferguson’s disregard for departmental advice on Whaleback Ridge major project declaration

Media Enquiries

Documents published following Minister Ferguson’s decision to declare the Whaleback Ridge windfarm a major project, have revealed concerns raised by key government departments prior to the decision.

The documents also revealed that the total development area is a mammoth 40,500 hectares covering areas of the Meredith Ranges Regional Reserve, Mount Heemskirk Regional Reserve and areas assessed by the Australian Heritage Council as having National Heritage values and areas identified in the Tasmanian Forests Agreement Independent Verification Report as having World Heritage values both north and south of the Pieman River.

“The departments have given clear advice to the minister that the Whaleback Ridge wind farm proposal will impact threatened species, geo-conservation sites and Aboriginal heritage sites. They also advised against the assessment of the proposal in isolation from the extensive transmission line upgrades that will be required. The minister has ignored these important concerns to rush out an announcement ahead of the election, breaching the caretaker convention to do so,” said Bob Brown Foundation takayna / Tarkine Campaigner Scott Jordan.

“More worrying is that the developer-designed major projects declaration relegates bodies like the EPA and local government to a mere consulting role rather than their legislated function in assessment of proposed projects and setting conditions for any approvals. Having ignored them now, it is clear that the intent is to be in a position to be able to ignore them entirely.”

The major project declaration also removes the appeal rights before the Tasmanian Planning Commission.

“We are calling on the parties to commit to revoking the declaration and ensuring the normal assessment process is followed, allowing all voices to be heard in an assessment that has long-term impacts for such a massive area of our public reserves and World Heritage value landscapes.”

In the State Planning Office Report to Minister, February 2024:

Department of Natural Resources and Environment
“The scale of the project increases the likelihood of impacts to natural values, increasing the complexity of the assessment process. Direct and indirect impacts may temporarily and/or permanently alter the available habitat for threatened terrestrial and aquatic flora/fauna and create collision risks for avifauna during construction and when operational. The project will also potentially impact aquatic environments and sites of geo-conservation value.”

Aboriginal Heritage Tasmania
“The Aboriginal Heritage Register lists 9 Aboriginal heritage sites within the project land. The proposal has the potential to significantly impact the region’s environmental and social cultural heritage values, as further detailed landscape modelling and survey assessment is expected to reveal many more Aboriginal heritage sites.”

Environment Protection Authority
“The proponent’s intention to pursue separate approvals pathways for the staged upgrading of transmission line capacity does not represent best practice, and the project should be assessed in its entirety, having regard to the associated cumulative impacts of future transmission infrastructure.”

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