In 2012, Hydro Tasmania proposed a large scale, 600 megawatt, wind energy development in King Island, Tasmania. Despite adopting what was described as 'best practice' community engagement, the time of the proposal was marred by social conflict between people and groups in King Island. The local dispute escalated to levels where families, friendships, and business relationships were damaged. This research project employed perspectives from social psychology to understand why the proposal caused such significant social conflict, despite the community engagement strategy.
Five key drivers of the local conflict were identified: problematic pre-feasibility engagement; the lack of a third-party facilitator of the community consultative committee; holding a vote which polarised the community; the lack of a clear place in the engagement process for local opposition, and; the significance of local context. These findings are instructive for improving community engagement practice for wind energy and other energy generation and land use change sectors.
About the speaker
Dr Rebecca Colvin is the Knowledge Exchange Specialist of the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University. Bec's role with the CCI is to facilitate the strengthening of links between climate change researchers and end users of the research. In this space, Bec's research interests include how people connect to each other to bridge disciplinary divides, and the social influences on decision-making. Before joining the CCI, Bec completed a PhD at The University of Queensland which explored ways of understanding social conflict about the environment through using the social identity approach to interrogate processes of stakeholder and community engagement.