The federal government faces a costly lawsuit from a developer after Environment Minister Ian Campbell backed down and belatedly approved a controversial Victorian wind farm, a report says.
Senator Campbell announced the Bald Hills Wind Farm project in Gippsland could go ahead, eight months after blocking the Victorian government’s approval for the project because of concerns for the rare orange-bellied parrot.
The delay has caused proposed construction costs to blew out by $30 million to $250 million and developer Wind Power said it had sought legal advice on recouping the difference, The Australian reported.
“We are getting legal advice on whether we can sue the government on any losses we sustain,” Wind Power director Andrew Newbold told The Australian.
The controversy flared amid allegations Senator Campbell had acted not out of primary concern for the parrot but to appease anti-wind farm voters in the marginal federal seat of McMillan.
Lobby group the Coastal Guardians has urged banks not to provide finance for the project, and local residents will hold a community meeting on Saturday to try and block the wind farm.
Local federal Liberal MP Russell Broadbent expressed his disappointment in the ministerial backflip.
“This is a real blow to the people of this area who have fought long and hard to protect endangered wildlife and the amenity beauty of the Gippsland coastline,” Mr Broadbent said.
The company had agreed to changes such as removing any planned turbines from within a two-kilometre coastal strip and to create an 800m buffer between turbines and a wetland.
Senator Campbell said the changes greatly reduced the risk to wildlife.
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