In late 2012 the Tasmania State-owned Hydro Tasmania announced a plan to build 200 giant wind turbines on King Island in western Bass Strait, off Australia’s south-east coast. The utility promised locals a vote on whether to proceed to a feasibility study, stating publicly that 60 per cent support was sufficient to move to feasibility. Many locals were concerned because, in short, if the wind farm went ahead it threatened a fast and new emerging local tourism industry built around premium golf-courses, eco-tourism and organic fine dining. Building the turbines would change the island’s unique character forever and potentially deter investment in two planned premier golf courses and cost potential and much needed employment opportunities for locals. In addition, the feasibility study would take two years, effectively placing the island in a state of limbo. A group of local residents, the No TasWind Farm Group, asked Wells Haslem to assist in running a community campaign to convince locals to vote no and throw their support behind creating a new King Island built on a unique tourism experience.
The campaign focussed on King Island’s emergence as a mecca for golf tourism, and the likelihood that this would lead to a boom in eco and food tourism. Based on our advice, the No TasWind Farm Group (NTWFG) warned this future would be placed in serious jeopardy if the feasibility study went ahead, turning away investors. Firstly, we undertook an extensive stakeholder analysis within a wider communications strategy. Key was identifying allies within the community and utilising their energy and passion to support the NTWFG campaign. With the name already formed, Wells Haslem designed a logo to unite the branding of the community group. The campaign was ramped-up close to the community vote, with: advertising in the local newspaper, on the local bus, in stores and other locations; letters to the editor in the local paper; media interviews across Tasmania and Victoria; and NTWFG community meetings. The entire exercise was supported with a website designed, created and managed by Wells Haslem. Throughout the campaign Wells Haslem managed ongoing proactive and reactive media opportunities. The group presented a petition to the King Island Council (a council that was pro feasibility study) that informed them of the size of the opposition in the community.
41.3 per cent of locals voted no to the feasibility study; 58.7 per cent of residents voted yes, short of the required 60 per cent promised by Hydro Tasmania, meaning Hydro Tasmania should have ceased its attempt at a feasibility study. The utility broke its word and proceeded to feasibility. The matter then went before the Federal Court. However, before the Court case concluded, the Government withdrew its plans to build any wind turbines on King Island. The community won.