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Wind farm got OK 'before risks revealed' 

A Tasmanian wind farm located near known habitats of the orange-bellied parrot was approved before new information revealed risks to the birds from the turbine blades, Federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell says.

In April this year, Senator Campbell overturned Victorian government approval for a 52-turbine wind farm at Bald Hills in Gippsland, using his discretionary powers under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

Despite a departmental report indicating there would be negligible impact on the species, an independent Biosis report found more serious concerns about parrot deaths.

The minister acted, blocking the $220 million project.

In a question on notice to Senator Campbell in September this year, Labor frontbencher Kelvin Thomson asked whether the Woolnorth and Musselroe Bay wind farms in Tasmania posed greater risks than the thwarted Bald Hills project.

The Woolnorth project is expected to have 79 turbines when completed.

Senator Campbell replied this week, stating that the Woolnorth installation and another wind farm near Portland in Victoria – known parrot habitats – were early approvals under the EPBC Act and both were based on the best information available at the time.

“The Biosis report was completed in February 2006 and contained new and relevant information that I was required to take into account when considering the Bald Hills Wind Energy Installation proposal,” he said.

“The Musselroe Wind Energy Installation was approved in 2005 and is not located within the known distributional range of the orange-bellied parrot.”

Senator Campbell also denied he had vetoed a recommendation from his department that the Bald Hills project go ahead, saying that was merely one of several conclusions.

“(The Biosis report) concluded that the orange-bellied parrot had a high probability of becoming extinct within the next 50 years,” he said.

“While the impacts of wind farms on the species is low, almost any negative impact on the species could (tip) the balance against its continued existence.”


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