The federal government has told Paris it has deep concerns over plans for a wind farm to be built on French farmland where more than 10,000 Diggers were killed during the battle of Bullecourt in World War I.
Foreign Minister Julia Bishop said the government had raised with the French government its “objections to the proposal” and it would continue to lobby against the planned development.
“The French government is well aware of the depth of our concerns,” Mr Bishop told The Australian yesterday.
“We will continue to make high-level representations against the proposal.”
Former Queensland premier Campbell Newman, whose great-uncle Second Lieutenant Leslie Mullett was among those killed at Bullecourt, has been pressuring the government to act to prevent the wind farm being built on the site, describing the move as an “outrage”.
“I’ve made some calls to some of my contacts in the federal government and my impression is that they are taking it very seriously and they believe the French are taking it very seriously,” Mr Newman said yesterday.
“They are following the right processes with the French political system and the feeling is this thing (wind farm) will ultimately be knocked on the head.”
It is estimated the remains of between 3000 and 4000 Australian, British and German soldiers remain at Bullecourt, in northeast France, where tens of thousands of soldiers were killed.
There were more Australians killed in the two Bullecourt battles than English troops – just under 9000 were killed – and the battles are regarded as a turning-point for Australia with a national sentiment pushing back against perceived disastrous directions from British officers.
French company Engie Green is proposing to build up to seven wind turbines on the site, with the project also involving digging for transmission tunnels and other infrastructure.
Local Riencourt-less-Cagnicourt mayor Gerard Crutel has also protested the development, telling French newspaper La Voix Du Nord “I do not want it” and “this place is almost a graveyard”.
Speaking with that same newspaper, Engie Green project leader Maxime Louage said the company had had “lots of feedback” on the proposal and it had “moved the project to the south by several hundred metres”.
However, he said “we can’t keep changing the project every 10 days and it’s difficult to keep everyone happy”.
Australian War Memorial director Brendan Nelson has also called on Paris to prevent the project from proceeding, warning that allowing it could strain the relationship between Australia and France.
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