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Proposed wind farm on Jirrbal Country a concern for some

Aleisha Orr -

A proposal for a wind farm in North Queensland has raised concerns for some Jirrbal people who say the project does not respect the land and threatens native species.

The Chalumbin Wind Farm project would see wind farm developer Epuron construct 94 wind turbines and clear 1,132 ha of land near the town of Ravenshoe.

A number of online petitions to the project have been created which list concerns about the impact of a wind farm on vulnerable and endangered species including the northern greater glider, red goshawk and the magnificent brood frog.

Jirrbal woman Georgina Wieden told a community meeting in December the Country needs to be protected.

"My daughter she is a sugar glider, that is her totem, my son is a goanna, how do I explain that their animals don't have homes anymore because we needed electricity."

Ms Wieden says Elders beyond the prescribed body corporate knew little about the project and were worried it could impact on culturally significant areas.

"What about us, what about our culture? What about us as people...where do we have a say Where are our Elders and our Ancestors respected?

"We belong to that land and that land does not belong to us, therefore we need to respect it."

A spokeswoman for Epuron said while the project has been named 'Chalumbin' Wind Farm it does not involve the wilderness area of the same name or any rainforest.

She said the proposed site was on two cattle grazing properties with existing cleared areas, Wooroora and Glen Gordon Stations.

"Epuron has been working closely with representatives of the Traditional Owners of the project area, specifically, consulting with the Wabubadda Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC (Wabubadda) and Applicants to the Jirrbal #4 Native Title claim, over the past 14 months," she said.

The spokeswoman said Epuron has a Cultural Heritage Management Agreement in place with these parties setting out how they will work together to "identify, protect and manage cultural heritage on the site".

She said site visits with Jirrbal People and consultation with Elders and cultural knowledge holders had taken place and the results were presented by the participants to Jirrbal People at a consultation session.

"It (the consultation) has informed design changes to the project including removing turbines from a key area of significance and applying a buffer zone of protection to that area," the spokeswoman said.

But Ms Wieden has questioned how extensive such consultation had been, saying many Elders had not been consulted.

The Epuron spokeswoman said engagement with the local community "more broadly" had taken place and was ongoing.

The project is yet to be approved by the Queensland Government and the federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE).

Epuron has submitted a development application to the state government and the DAWE has made a decision to assess the proposal through a Public Environment Report.

Epuron's spokeswoman said she expected a draft report to be lodged within the next few months,

If the project gets the green light from both levels of government it would be operational about three or four years after approval.

The Epuron spokeswoman said the project is expected to provide up to 350 jobs and work for local contractors during the construction period, and 15-30 ongoing jobs during operation.

Wabubadda Aboriginal Corporation was contacted for comment and while a representative acknowledged it was a "sensitive matter" he referred the National Indigenous Times to the North Queensland Land Council who is yet to respond.

By Aleisha Orr


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