Ramsar-listed lakes in the Western District are at risk of losing significant numbers of birdlife upon the construction of the Mt Gellibrand Wind Farm, according to Birregurra resident Jorda Burnett who has undertaken detailed research into the habits of migratory birds such as the brolga.
Ms Burnett fears the Acciona Energy project has insufficient information on the flight patterns and nesting habits of fauna and that vital studies done during the application process were undertaken during drought.
The Burnett family owns property just kilometres from the Mt Gellibrand Wind Farm site, which is due to commence construction any day.
They have been campaigning passionately to protect bird life for the past 12 months, in fear that studies done by Acciona do not give a true representation of the birdlife during normal seasonal conditions.
Ms Burnett said her family is concerned that wind turbines will be in the path of migratory birds, and that brolga habitat surrounding the 63 turbines mooted by Acciona will be impacted on.
The area is also under international treaty with both Japan and China as an area of significant for migratory birds.
Ms Burnett said this was an issue that had been highlighted during a meeting with Acciona in June, but as yet, no response to any concerns listed had been received.
“I’m all for renewable energy. What I am against is the threat to birdlife that will be present by the introduction of turbine blades in what is their migratory route.
“How can Acciona say it has all the information possible when flora and fauna studies were done over a few short days, in drought.
“It just doesn’t give a true representation of the impact that will be felt by birds like the brolga.”
Ms Burnett said there would also be overhead distribution powerlines put in place as part of the construction, ranging from triple lines, double lines and singular lines connecting the terminal station to the sub-stations and all wind turbines.
“Normally these are placed underground, but due to the rocky terrain and increased costs, all distribution lines are above ground. They will spread from the base of Mooleric Rd all the way to the base of Mt Gellibrand, an array of cables! That’s a huge collision risk for all migratory birds and brolga’s, particularly for Brolga’s because of their long necks they are slow to react to stationary objects.”
Acciona Energy’s director of engineering, construction and operations Brett Wickham conceded initial studies had been undertaken during drought, but more detailed studies were undertaken as a requirement of the planning permit at Mt Gellibrand.
“These studies were conducted in close consultation with the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) from mid-2010 to mid-2011, in a period of significantly above-average rainfall.”
Mr Wickham said surveys targeting brolga activity had also been undertaken. “Protecting native flora and fauna is a key planning, regulatory and operational requirement for the Mt Gellibrand Wind Farm, and Acciona Energy takes its responsibilities very seriously.”
He said protocols would be put in place during construction to ensure ground disturbance was tightly controlled in sensitive areas and potential hazards to native flora and fauna were managed and ongoing surveys would monitor brolga activity and behaviour during the first five years of operation. “This will commence in the first available wet or intermediate year following commissioning.
“If unacceptable risks are identified in these surveys an adaptive management will be implemented in consultation with DSE,” he said.
A spokesman for Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources Michael O’Brien said calls by the Burnett family to reconsider the license for Mt Gellibrand wind farm would not be responded to.
“This project received a permit form the previous Labor Government by way of the ministerial approval of Justin Madden. The Victorian Coalition Government cannot undo the permit that Justin Madden granted,” they said.
“The Coalition Government introduced changes to the wind energy facility provisions in order to implement State Government policy commitments, and remains committed to renewable energy,” they said.
There are currently permits for more than 1100 turbines in Victoria (valued of $3 billion). These permits are in addition to more than 250 wind turbines already in operation and a further 170 turbines under construction.
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