On July 29,1999 Hydro Tasmania announced its plans to construct a 130 megawatt wind farm on the west coast of <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Tasmania at Woolnorth.broadening its renewable energy focus from hydro-electric construction and operation to include wind farm developments.
To ensure the development proceeded, an effective communications strategy was required to secure the support of stakeholders.
As a large infrastructure development, it was important to openly communicate the benefits of the project and the process for the environmental impact studies.
The focus of the communication program was on the Tasmanian community through the media, and face-to-face public consultation on specific aspects of the development.
While the State Government and the Circular Head Council in whose
The Woolnorth development is significant for Hydro Tasmania, municipality the development will be located, support the project and recognise the substantial benefits, it was important to ensure transparency in all activities associated with the development.
With the viability of the project reliant on the two percent mandated renewables legislation, currently before the Federal Parliament, the Federal Government was also an important audience.
The communications strategy has been successful with predominantly positive news stories from the media and general satisfaction and support in the community.
Hydro <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Tasmania is an electricity generator that produces renewable hydro-electricity in Tasmania. For over 80 years, it has constructed, operated and maintained hydro-electric schemes and currently produces over 60 per cent of Australias electricity from renewable energy sources.
On July 29,1999 Hydro Tasmania announced its plans to construct a 130 megawatt wind farm on the west coast of Tasmania at the Woolnorth property.
The announcement was made jointly by Hydro Tasmania chairman, Peter Rae, Deputy Premier and Energy Minister, Paul Lennon, and the mayor of the Circular Head Council, Ross Hine.
The wind farm will be developed in three stages with stage one of 10.5 megawatts to be completed in 2001. A transmission line would also be constructed to carry electricity generated from the wind farm to the substation for distribution to customers.
The Woolnorth project is a significant development for Hydro Tasmania, broadening its renewable energy focus from hydro-electric construction and operation to wind farm developments. The Woolnorth project follows a successful initial wind farm development of 750 kilowatts on KingIsland, off the Tasmanian mainland.
Wind farm developments fit well with Hydro Tasmanias vision to be the world-renowned renewable energy business, and with the State Governments vision for Tasmania in relation to technology, jobs and a clean, green image.
As with hydro-electric developments, there are significant hurdles to cross when developing wind farms, and detailed processes to follow.
For the wind farm development to progress, it isimportant for Hydro Tasmania to gain support from several publics:
- the local Circular Head community where the wind farm is to be built
- the Tasmanian community
- the local council
- environmental groups
- the State Government
- the Federal Government, and
- Hydro Tasmania employees.
The economic feasibility of the development relies on the Federal Governments commitment to legislate its two per cent mandated renewables program that resulted from the 1997 Kyoto agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That legislation was introduced to the Federal Parliament on 22 June 2000 and is currently progressing well.
The construction of the Basslink cable from Tasmania to mainland Australia will provide the vehicle for Hydro Tasmania to export its premium renewable product into the National Electricity Market. Construction of the cable is expected to be completed in 2002, which is around the time that stage two of the wind farm project will be completed.
The siting of the transmission line and the environmental impact assessments on the wind farm site were identified as potentially the most emotive issues associated with the development.
Immediately following the public launch of the project, several consultative activities took place:
- two public meetings at Smithton on Tasmanias north-west coast, the major population centre of the municipality, were conducted to provide information to the local community about the project, specifically the environmental impact studies, and to gain feedback on the issues that are important to the community;
- an information campaign to explain the requirements and processes for the construction of the transmission line was conducted. Letters were mailed to landowners that might be affected by the transmission line route and Hydro Tasmania officers visited those landowners who wanted more information.
The main strategy of the communications campaign was to communicate the advantages of the project to key stakeholders prior to consideration of the development application by the Circular Head Council in 2000.
To date the project has received very positive publicity. Generally, stakeholders view the project in a positive way, seeing it as an opportunity to develop a premium product that reflects well on Tasmania, and the development of a new export market that will assist in reducing Australias greenhouse emissions.
The Premier and the Minister for Infrastructure, Energy and Resources have shown a great deal of interest in the development of wind farms and wind energy expertise in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Tasmania. It is essential to ensure their continued interest and support through effective communication. It will be necessary to keep them informed on progress and arrange their involvement at key milestones where appropriate.
The Circular Head community (and Circular Head Council)<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
The Circular Head community was generally supportive of this project because of its potential to have a positive effect on the economy of the region through jobs at the construction stage and potential tourism exposure. The project will also raise the image of the area through the clean, green messages that will be associated with the development.
The positioning of the power line corridor and the subsequent consultation with landowners was a critical aspect of the development.
The wind farm development is an excellent vehicle to communicate Hydro Tasmanias vision to be Tasmanias world-renowned renewable energy business to the wider Tasmanian community.
The Tasmanian media played an important role in gaining public support for the project by publicising the announcement in the initial communications about the wind farm development and follow-up news stories.
Hydro Tasmania employees
Employees must be kept up to date with developments associated with the wind farm to ensure their awareness of the project. Regular updates/milestones were reported through Contact and the Intranet.
The Federal Governments legislation of the two per cent mandated renewables program will be a determining factor in the viability of the project. It will be critical to communicate the importance of the project to this audience.
To retain the support of Government agencies that have a stake in the project, Hydro Tasmania must ensure transparency and openness in all its dealings. Consultation on communication activities associated with environmental outcomes of the project will be particularly important to this group.
SECONDARY AUDIENCES Potential suppliers and business partners
The ultimate development of 400 megawatts of wind energy on the West Coast will provide opportunities for local manufacturing, engineering, construction and maintenance. These opportunities could become a niche market with the expertise potentially being exported nationally and internationally.
With the plans for significant wind energy development and the advent of Basslink, Hydro Tasmania will be in a competitive position to enter the national market through the export of renewable energy.
Consultation with Aurora Energy was essential for any publicity relating to the positioning and construction of the power line. Publicity opportunities from this aspect of the development should be jointly communicated.
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The main theme for the communication program was:
Hydro <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Tasmanias wind farm developments will add significant value to the Tasmanian community by enhancing its clean, green image. The developments will be carried out in an environmentally responsible manner with full consultation with all stakeholders.
This theme was reflected in all communications with the media and stakeholders.
The overall strategy for communicating the wind farm development was to identify key components of the project and communicate them to stakeholders through the media and by public consultation prior to the development application being considered by the Circular Head Council.
These components included the clean, green image of the project, the transmission line corridor, and the environmental studies into potential flora and fauna impacts including bird flight paths, Aboriginal and European heritage issues and other social issues.
The strategy was to ensure the overall goodwill towards the project by stakeholders prior to the development application being considered by council in 2000.
- Tasmanian journalists in print, radio and television
- targeted national and international energy publications
- paid print advertisements publicising specific events / activities
- public meetings / direct consultation
- internal employee newsletter Contact
- Intranet and Internet communications.
The communication methods used to achieve the stated objectives were:
- media conference announcing the wind farm development
- feature articles sent to targeted energy publications: Australian Energy News; Windpower Monthly; Electricity Supply Association of Australias Electricity Supply Magazine
- feature articles arranged with all Tasmanian print media and key national print media
- broadcast media releases to all Tasmanian media outlets and key national print media
- local community stakeholder meetings at the Circular Head Council Chambers
- a shop front open day was held in Smithton to provide residents with an opportunity to discuss the development with Hydro Tasmania officers
- paid advertising in local newspapers promoting stakeholder meetings / lodgement of the development application
- briefings with Tasmanian Government Ministers and staff
- briefings with Tasmanian Federal Government members and Senators
- information provided to internal and external audiences on the Intranet and Internet.
- The Woolnorth Wind Farm Development achieved a high level of media interest from local Tasmanian media, national and specialty media. The openness of Hydro Tasmanias communication with media representatives and the talent offered ensured balanced editorial comment with little negativity.
- The consultation process in the Circular Head municipality where the wind farm will be developed proved particularly effective. The first meeting attracted about 80 residents whose interests ranged over a variety of issues including environmental impact assessments and the transmission line route. All questions were answered on that evening. The second public meeting several months later attracted only about 25 residents, again with similar interests.
A conclusion drawn from the drop in numbers at the second meeting was that residents are satisfied with the consultation process and that their questions have been answered.
A shop front open day in Smithton drew a reasonable amount of interest from the local Circular Head community with very positive feedback about the development reported by staff in attendance.
- Wide ranging support for the project has been received from briefings of State Government and Tasmanian Federal members and Senators.
- Following the initial Woolnorth Wind Farm launch, the project has continued to capture the imagination of the media with a number of news stories and feature articles published locally and nationally.
Overall, the communication strategy to meet the stated objectives of the Woolnorth Wind Farm development announcement has been very successful.
The project captured the imagination of the local media in terms of the project itself and the wide-ranging benefits for <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Tasmania and nationally.
Media content analysis identified 63 positive news stories, five neutral and five negative news stories that were generated from the initial media conference and subsequent media contact, and eight positive feature articles published by state, national and international publications.
The consultative process in the local area relating to the power line corridor and the public meetings and open day have reaped positive results. There has been little negative comment about the power line corridor, and the significant decline in numbers at the public meetings would indicate general approval of the development.
Briefings with State and Federal Government members have reaped a successful result with a high level of support for the development.