Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell has won a concession from the developer of the Bald Hills wind farm, with the company agreeing to move six turbines out of the potential flight path of the orange-bellied parrot.
Senator Campbell blocked the wind farm in April, claiming a threat to the parrot, and the company’s move is an acknowledgment the turbines would have been on the potential migratory path of the endangered bird.
The minister has agreed to reconsider the wind farm after legal action by the company. Opponents of the project said yesterday the company’s decision was an admission of guilt and showed the original proposal threatened the bird.
The parrot’s migratory path is mostly within 2km of the coast. Six of the 52 turbines proposed for Bald Hills are within 2km of the Victorian coast or along the 2km boundary.
A director of Wind Power, Andrew Newbold, told The Australian the company had decided to move the six turbines 150m back from the 2km line.
Mr Newbold said the decision was “definitely” a concession.
“We have done that to avoid any ambiguity about the migratory path, removing that … as a possible reason for further rejection,” he said.
Coastal Guardians spokesman Tim Le Roy said the shifting of the turbines and the company’s offer to spend $750,000 on orange-bellied parrot recovery programs contradicted its claims the wind farm would have no impact on the bird.
“It is an admission of guilt that they’re putting money in and moving the turbines,” Mr Le Roy said. “We consider the proposal is still unacceptable. You can’t put a price on an endangered species. They think they can throw money at it to make them feel better.”
Mr Le Roy said if Senator Campbell approved the revised proposal, his group would take action in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to have the project stopped.
But Mr Newbold said the company had spent $2 million on the project, including $300,000 in legal fees.
In its new submission to the Government, the company has provided advice from wildlife expert Brett Lane to rebut Senator Campbell’s reasons for rejecting the wind farm.
Mr Lane said he was unaware of any record of the parrot within 5km of the proposed wind farm site, and there was no suitable habitat for the bird at the site.
He said the Biosis report used by Senator Campbell to veto the project overestimated the risk of parrots hitting the wind turbines.
While Senator Campbell claimed the wind farm had the potential to kill one parrot a year, the claim was based on the cumulative impact of 17 wind farms – most of which have not been built – and on assumptions unsupported by sightings or empirical evidence.
“Taken at its highest, the Biosis modelling supports a finding that the potential impact of the Bald Hills wind farm would be the death of one orange-bellied parrot every thousand years,” he said.
Federal Opposition environment spokesman Anthony Albanese said: “The expert advice tells us what we all knew – less than one parrot might die at the site in 1000 years, despite the minister’s claims to the contrary. The dodgy science is exposed.”
by Ewin Hannan
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