The community cost of consultation: Characterising the qualitative social impacts of a wind energy development that failed to proceed in Tasmania, Australia

Rebecca Colvin, Bradd Witt, Justine Lacey, Kathy Witt

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Energy developments affect communities in a range of ways. Impacts on communities can be caused by changes to landscape amenity and access, disruptions to community cohesion, increased or decreased income streams, effects on property values, and population changes. These changes are ideally captured in the social impact assessment (SIA) process, where proponents outline in a formal statement the balance of benefits and burdens on local communities, and measures that will be taken to minimise negative outcomes for the community. In SIA practice there is a tendency toward quantitative socio-economic impacts, such as changes to demographics, income, and land values, with some qualitative assessment of amenity impacts. While the academic literature promotes inclusion of changes to the community itself, such as impacts on community cohesion and social capital, these qualitative changes are not consistently evident in SIA practice. Additionally, SIA practice assesses the impacts of the project, i.e. how the development of wind turbines or other energy infrastructure will affect the community. Because the consultation process around a proposed project typically commences prior to the characterisation and assessment of any associated social impacts and the finalisation of the SIA process, the potential impacts of this consultation are rarely, if ever, evaluated. Here, we examine a case study of an Australian wind energy project that did not proceed to implementation. Through this case study we are able to analyse the anticipatory impacts of the proposal; those stemming from the consultative process rather than the development of the project itself. We present these qualitative social changes, and outline the pathways through which the social changes manifest in two overarching social impacts: a divided community and future development capacity. We discuss the implications of this analysis in the context of good engagement practice and energy governance.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)40-48
    JournalEnvironmental Impact Assessment Review
    Volume77
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2019

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