Decision: The proposed action is a controlled action. The project will require assessment and approval under the EPBC Act before it can proceed.
Relevant controlling provisions
• World Heritage properties (sections 12 & 15A)
• National Heritage places (sections 15B & 15C)
• Listed threatened species and communities (sections 18 & 18A)
• Listed migratory species (sections 20 & 20A)
The project will be assessed by public environment report.
"We take an inclusive, collaborative, responsive and transparent approach, and work to a high standard of stakeholder and community engagement. Project teams engage extensively with communities and other stakeholders throughout the planning process, to achieve the optimal project design."
Extract Epuron's Website.
If I hadn’t personally experienced what transpired at the so-called Chalumbin Wind Farm Ravenshoe ‘Community Information Session” today (16th Sept 2021), I would not have believed it.
Meeting was scheduled for 3:00. A significant number of people were waiting on the footpath at 2:30. Amongst those in line were a sizable percentage of people of an age that courtesy would require offering a seat to. At 2:40 someone (gathered to be a representative of Epuron – the company behind the planned development), partially opened the door and rudely declared “The meeting starts at 3:00!”. No offers to come in and sit down for those who needed it - nothing.
This same person then proceeded to remove the Qld Govt. QR Covid scan in sign from the door of the hall, so she could put up Epuron’s signs up (with no app.) We then watched in bemusement while she played Tetris with the signs, after realising, late evidently, that she should not have removed the QR sign in the first place. I tell you it didn’t bode well for what was to follow.
3:00 the doors were opened, and we signed in. We climbed the stairs and were greeted by a large empty room with two medium sized tables. Not a single chair. As the first 30-40 people entered the room all looking similarly stunned, some attendees took it upon themselves to bring out some chairs from a side room. Just to be clear the entire time we were lined up in the street, Epuron didn’t bother to bring in, (let alone set up), a single seat!
Whispers started flying through the ever-increasing crowd that Epuron were not going to make a presentation – were not going to address the crowd. 3:20 came and not a single word had been spoken from any Epuron rep. to the large gathering.
3:24 A Epuron representative – we’ll call him John for now – as he refused – yes that’s correct, - outright refused to provide his full name when asked, by an attendee. My 10 year old son pointed out his name was on his ID card on his jeans pocket. Of course, no-one could read that from beyond a couple of metres away, and no one knew his position within the company. From the card straining my eyes I believed his name to be John Salvo, the Epuron general manager of QLD development. A google search of the company tells me his name is actually John Sadler.
He very rudely refused to answer questions, and stated there would be no presentation, - it was simply an opportunity for people to pick up information brochures (a lot of which was pure company propaganda), from the tables, and to look at posters. There were 5 Epuron reps John stated who would answer questions only on a one-on-one basis.
By now the room was in a stunned uproar and rightly so.
John’s idea of providing community information was then to make a very hasty retreat to a side room where he effectively hid from the gathering. I was in such disbelief I took out my phone and photographed both the waiting crowd and him hiding. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I never would have believed it!
Eventually he came out and in a condescending manner, after very serious questions were put to him – to some lame extent tried to answer a few questions – but he didn’t. There was no microphone, no PA system so hearing anything was virtually impossible unless you were close by. That didn’t help by John making no attempt to speak in a level beyond what was barely over a whisper anyway. He was asked if this meeting was an attempt at consultation or just for ticking a box. He said words to the effect of it was the start of ‘consultation,’ and that there were feedback forms available to be filled out. (Loaded forms I might add!)
Indigenous Elders connected to the land directly under threat by the development stated they had not had ANY consultation. They demanded to know exactly whom Epuron had consulted with in their name. He wouldn’t answer the question. Personally, I developed the view John did not want to answer questions from the considerable number of Indigenous representatives – including Elders in the crowd. So much so I moved to the opposite side of the room. This was twofold. Firstly, I wondered if a white man with a large voice would get attention to have the Elders questions answered. Secondly, I wanted to talk to the Elders if the opportunity presented itself. I never used that voice to test the former. (I was very grateful that the latter transpired).
John spent the next probably up to 30+ minutes (I’m not sure of duration), talking to a handful of non-indigenous attendees over near a poster on the far side of the room. Multiple requests from different attendees to have him answer questions from those who had literally held their arms in the air for 15-20+ minutes went unanswered. In fact, it was suggested by some in the crowd that the Elders would need to re-locate to the poster to be addressed. It was an absolute disgrace.
Eventually a couple of questions were taken, one from an Indigenous attendee, the second from a caucasian man – incidentally 1 of the only 2 people who raised their hands in support of the development from the estimated 100 – 130 who attended!
I had attended the meeting planning to speak on vulnerable native species which the companies own Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act referral application states will likely have “a significant impact” on certain species. (See below*). I did not speak to this. If Elders trying to raise the issue of sacred sites not even being acknowledged, and their complete rejection of the project on these sites wouldn’t be heard – it seemed completely inappropriate to raise other issues.
There had clearly been no consultation with these traditional custodians with links to the actual land in question! (More to come on this at a later stage). The disdain showed to attendees was palpable.
Epuron trading under Chalumbin Wind Farm PTY LTD clearly has no social licence to proceed with this site. They have failed in their duty to consult with traditional owners and have scant disregard to the environmental damage of this project, in a significant environmental area adjacent to the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area!
Epuron aka Chalumbin Wind Farm; if you proceed with this project you will face a fight you will not win, whilst sustaining irreparable damage to your companies reputation. Abandon this project, acknowledge your mistakes, and save the humiliation you will
*(info available on website 'Species at Risk' page).
The developers version of events has been edited multiple times on their website post. This is their original post (screenshot taken 20th Sept 2021). https://acrobat.adobe.com/link/track?uri=urn:aaid:scds:US:b53820ae-4b7b-321c-b2c8-1f241b5edc7c
In the draft Public Environment Report (PER) published early Nov 2022 Ark Energy have fabricated an account claiming that "The animated reactions of a small group of people put the safety of
other attendees at risk and their behaviour also prevented all attendees from having the opportunity to speak, hear or be heard." Unfortunately for the developer there are many witnesses willing to testify under oath as to what transpired that day. But it gets even worse. The developer attempts to use this fabrication as an attempt to justify why they have failed to hold or attend a single open consultation meeting throughout the entire process. However, there are emails from the developer predating this report proving this to be a lie.
This is an extract from an email from Paul Stangroom, Epuron's development manager in Jan 2022:
“The decision to hold a series of smaller information sessions is a response to the current health and safety risks related to COVID. Unfortunately this is out of our control and although a single event would be easier logistically, we are of the view that it would not be responsible to host a larger public gathering as you describe in Ravenshoe at this time.”
"After evaluation of the current circumstances, we decided to proceed with multiple smaller briefings rather than reschedule because we appreciate that it is also important for community members to have an opportunity to speak directly with the project team as soon as possible."
"We will of course revert to holding public information sessions at a later, more appropriate time.”
Of course the mandates were lifted and no open meeting was ever held.
In addition, in private briefings Epuron (now re-branded Ark Energy), is apologising for the companies conduct at the meeting, while in the draft PER blaming members in attendance. It is truly beyond belief.
Ark Energy have deleted their initial website post of the 20th Sept 2021. It has subsequently been edited and re-posted. None of these versions make the claims outlined in the draft PER.
This fabricated claim is nothing more than an attempt to defraud the Australian government in order to gain development approval. Epuron, now Ark Energy have failed, by a long shot, to meet the requirements for consultation set out under the EPBC Act.
This last ditch effort to deceive the federal government, will be part of a formal complaint I will be lodging with the Australian Federal Police.
Members of the public are invited to comment on the draft guidelines for the preparation of a draft Public Environment Report for the Chalumbin Wind Farm development. (Under the Environmental Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999)
INVITATION FOR PUBLIC COMMENT
GUIDELINES FOR THE CONTENT OF A DRAFT PUBLIC ENVIRONMENT REPORT
Epuron issues a press release on it's website dated 5th October. There is some doubt as to the publication date as the document was not seen until much later in October. The date on the document is telling - one day before requests for public comments on the development are opened. The press release contains a number of verifiably false and misleading claims. https://epuron.com.au/documents/856/ChalumbinWindFarm_Update_Oct2021.pdf
Epuron's press release is thoroughly debunked. Please click the link to view the full PDF document.
Although published on the 29th Nov 2021, access to this document was not gained by us until early Feb 2022, due to confusion generated from the name of the file and the mistaken belief it was the same link RE: guidelines from the 6th Oct 2021, (see above).
Well publicized community organised consultation meeting is held at Ravenshoe Town Hall. Epuron was formally invited to attend the meeting through direct email correspondence with Paul Stangroom, Epuron's Development Director. This invitation was extended well in advance, on the 16th November 2021. Despite this, Epuron failed to attend the meeting. Instead sending Kim Forde, as a 'consultant' who according to Epuron could not answer questions for the company, and who did not speak at the meeting. It is ironic that although Kim Forde could not speak nor answer questions at the community forum, she has had no hesitation in attempting to arrange 1 on 1 meetings with individuals regarding this development. This applies likewise to Paul Stangroom who on the 3rd Nov wrote via email: "We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you in person or via video call, to discuss your concerns, answer questions, and provide you with the latest information on the project. Please advise of a convenient time..." Well Paul Stangroom, we did advise you well in advance but you failed to arrange for a single Epuron representative to attend! It would appear that offer to engage extends only to 1 on 1 meetings, and that Epuron regards open public consultation forums as avoidable.
Just 4 days after the consultation meeting that Epuron failed to attend, a new press release is issued. This press release contains the claim that a 'public information session' will be held early in the new year. The wording is telling given this is the same title given to the farcical Sept 16th meeting.
Epuron claims that the development with now consist of 94 instead of 95 wind turbines. It is claimed the development will be reduced to 2797 acres. Given Epuron's history of making false claims, the credibility of this announcement is questionable. In any event, the reduction of one turbine does not change the fact that this entire development at this site is untenable.
Korean Zinc Co Ltd buys Epuron Holdings PTY LTD.
Epuron advertises in The Express newspaper stating "Information sessions for the Chalumbin Wind Farm will be held in Ravenshoe next month to give interested members of the local community an opportunity to learn more about the proposal and discuss it with members of the project team. The sessions will be held at the new information hub for the Chalumbin Wind Farm project at 55 Grigg Street in Ravenshoe. In light of COVID-related health concerns a number of smaller sessions will be held, each providing the same information. As places for each session will be limited people are encouraged to register in advance for their preferred time."
It is no surprise Epuron would attempt to use the QLD Governments mandates to avoid proper community consultation - this was predicted back in December. What is astonishing is that Epuron would deliberately select such a small venue so as to minimise the number of people allowed in at any one time. Epuron yet again continues its attempt to avoid open public forums, relentlessly pursuing private one on one and small group meetings. Clearly this is how Epuron aims to tick the approval boxes.
Following the publication in The Express newspaper of Epuron's plans, an update is posted to their website backdated to Jan 21st. The earliest this could have been published is late on the 26th, but it is believed to have been published on the 27th Jan.
Protest held with real community anger at Epuron for failing for the third time in just under 5 months, to hold or attend a proper, open community consultation forum.
With community members very concerned about the devastating impact this development will have on the environment. A staggering 2797 acres would be destroyed by this development. That's 95% remnant vegetation bordering the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area, habitat critical to the survival of multiple endangered species.
With deforestation a leading cause of climate change, this development defies all credibility.
"The State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA) advises that your [Chalumbin Wind Farm] development application has not adequately demonstrated compliance with the State Development Assessment Provisions (SDAP)."
Geraldine McGuire, Managing Director of Sustainable Solutions Global PTY LTD is announced 'independent chair' in a press release in The Express newspaper.
Geraldine McGuire, is emailed surrounding potential conflict of interest concerns along with clarification regrading her appointment to the role. To date as of 5th May 2022 no response has been received.
The State Assessment and Referral Agency (SARA) advises that your development application has not adequately demonstrated compliance with the State Development Assessment Provisions (SDAP). SARA has reviewed your response to the information request and advice notice received on 31 March
2022 and as indicated in the conversation with you on 20 May 2022, the following issues with the proposed development have been identified: (see link below)
The QLD State Assessment & Referral Agency process approves the material change of use and native vegetation clearing for Chalumbin. While very dissapointing, this was expected as the state process bi-passes the environment department, is not open to public submissions and is a fundamentally flawed process.
State planner acknowledges concerns raised and announces review into QLD state approval codes and guidelines for wind farms.
The development is being assessed by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment (DAWE) through the EPBC process.
A diagram of the process and the current stage can be accessed here: https://acrobat.adobe.com/link/track?uri=urn:aaid:scds:US:8b88bdd6-ade4-34ad-b1ca-2daf089fcb90
Epuron has prepared a 1500 page draft Public Environment Report which is currently awaiting approval by the Environment Minister to be publicly released. This is expected to take place in late Oct 2022. Once released, this document will be opened to public comments through the DAWE online portal.
Once this occurs, this is the crucial stage for public submissions to be made to stop this development from being approved. There will be a window of only 20 days for submissions to be made.
The development will be assessed for approval with regards to the PER's addressing the issues and compliance with the GUIDELINES FOR THE CONTENT OF A DRAFT ENVIRONMENT REPORT - CHALUMBIN WIND FARM document which can be viewed in full here: https://img1.wsimg.com/blobby/go/c4c6caef-d346-479c-8ad7-2bda6d0a8491/downloads/2021-8983-Finalised-Guidelines.pdf?ver=1644511702376
We have summarised this 44 page document into 5 pages containing key issues, that will need to be fully addressed in the PER, in order for this development to gain approval.
Public submissions will be critical to stopping the Chalumbin development.
The Epuron brand is subtly retired, re-branding as the already existing company Ark Energy. Still the same people, still the same development. Ark Energy, like Epuron since the sell announced in Dec 2021, is owned by Korea Zinc, the worlds largest lead and zinc producer. Korea Zinc's stated aim is to use Australian renewables to create green hydrogen for export to Korea and elsewhere.
On a secondary note, targeting children in their propaganda campaign is morally reprehensible.
The timing of this announcement is highly suspicious. Why now? With the imminent release of the draft Public Environment Report (which has already been submitted to the federal government for approval to be released), how can it be that the developer has been spruiking a 94 turbine development? Our concerns are whether the PER covers a 94 turbine development or an 86. If it's 94 then that in no way adequately represents the development. If 86, why were the public not informed well before now? Instead the developer has been referencing the 94 turbine development the entire time.
A copy of the advertisment and our response can be found on our facebook page in the following link. https://www.facebook.com/StopChalumbinWindFarm/posts/pfbid02oPsWpiuz9cYy8LgwYUJduPA9KFxCux6Xisrb1s8sQmE7xp6QgA489tokHehRvdsxl
Due to an error on behalf of the developer under the EPBC Act, the federal Department of Climate Change, Energy, The Environment and Water (DCCEEW) instructs Ark Energy to re-commence the comments window. Public submissions made to date remain valid.
The draft PER was filled with false, misleading and omitted information. along with fabricated evidence designed to deceive the public and the federal government.
The community had zero confidence the developer would on-forward public comments to the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water as required under legislation, so hard copies of approximately 450 submissions were sent directly to the Hon. Tanya Plibersek. These are only a fraction of the total number of submissions made, which have been reported in the media as being over 1000.
Report submitted to federal Environment Minister and must be published by Ark Energy within 10 days.
The final PER is re-released. This occurred due to "an administrative error" in the original publication. Namely, that certain public submissions were left off the final document.
'Notification of extension to time in which to make a decision whether to
approve a controlled action' is issued by DCCEEW extending the timeline for a decision to be made on the Chalumbin development until 20th July 2023
'Notification of extension to time in which to make a decision whether to
approve a controlled action' is issued by DCCEEW extending the timeline for a decision to be made on the Chalumbin development until 28th September 2023
With a decision of the federal approval of this development imminent, and with widespread adverse media coverage surrounding the development, Ark energy releases a last ditch revision to attempt to gain development approval. While there is no doubt that the campaigning against this development has led to this revision, it yet again exposes the deception of the developer Ark Energy. Firstly, due to the widespread condemnation of Chalumbin Wind Farm Ark Energy elects to change the name of the development to Wooroora Station Wind Farm. We do not accept this and will not use the name. This is a mere PR stunt, just as it was when Ark retired the Epuron name when the negative connotations associated with it meant it became too toxic to use. Despite the rebrand Epuron/Ark staff remained the same - only the uniforms and logos changed. So too this time around. Where Ark have made a monumental mistake - yet again, is that they made the claim in both the signed draft and final Public Environment Reports that the removal of Magnificent Brood Frog habitat would make the development 'unfeasible" and as such if that was to occur, the only option would be not to proceed with the development. Stunningly, in this revised version this is exactly what Ark has done. They have removed this habitat yet amazingly the development is apparently now still feasible. It further highlights the length the developer will go to to deceive the community, DCCEEW and the federal Environment Minister. In addition, two alternative configurations of the development were provided in the PER and neither of those involved the current version, meaning it was not able to be assessed as an option by the public, independent scientists nor the federal department.
In revised format the development is still located just 1km away from the Wet Tropics World Heritage area with disastrous environmental implications.
The game is up, and the development must be rejected in its entirety.
STOP THE CHALUMBIN WIND FARM!
Copyright © 2021 Matt Lachlan