Part of a $300 million wind farm proposed for a Mid North site – which houses an endangered lizard population – was previously flagged for conservation by the state Environment Department, the Sunday Mail can reveal.
And wildlife lobbyists are now raising concerns about the project’s impact on the local wombat population.
A lack of funding meant acquisition of a grazing property – part of which would house the Twin Creek Wind Farm – never went ahead in 2013, the department has confirmed.
Minutes from the Native Vegetation Council’s assessment panel, obtained by the Hansborough and Districts Residents Group under Freedom of Information, show the department in 2013 “sought to acquire and formally protect” the land due to its “high biodiversity values”.
The Sunday Mail last month revealed the Twin Creek Wind Farm proposal at St Kitts, 80km north east of Adelaide, had undergone 25 revisions to tiptoe around 115 pygmy blue tongue lizards surveyed at the site last year.
The federal Environment Department is considering whether RES Australia Pty Ltd’s development application to build 51 wind turbines on part of a 5600ha site will significantly affect the endangered lizards.
The residents group and the Wombat Awareness Organisation are concerned RES Australia has failed to properly consider the wind farm’s impact on local southern hairy-nosed wombats, which the SA Environment Department says have no conservation status in that area.
The WAO argues the wombats are locally endangered and there are 25 times more wombats on the Twin Creek Wind Farm site than RES Australia-commissioned fauna assessment reports identified.
Brigitte Stevens, WAO director, estimated a minimum 150 wombats spread throughout the site using aerial footage taken in May, compared to six identified in the RES reports.
“RES Australia has made no effort to minimize any impact to the animals” she said.
“The ideal scenario is for RES Australia to choose another location of less significance and the properties be secured for conservation purposes.”
The company said the SA Environment Department’s abandoned plan to secure the habitat was prior to the wind farm proposal and on land near proposed turbine sites.
RES Australia senior development project officer Daniel Leahy said the wind farm “reopens the possibility of a pygmy blue tongue lizard conservation area to be established”.
“(We) are working with local experts to set up an offset area which would protect the species,” he said.
If wombats moved into the area, infrastructure could be moved to avoid them, RES said.
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