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Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
5 April 2006
A new report into the collective impact of wind farms on some of Australia’s threatened and migratory bird species warns of threats posed by coastal wind farms to the long-term survival of the threatened Orange-bellied Parrot, the Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell said today.
The report, Wind farm collision risk for birds – Cumulative risk for threatened and migratory species, examined the impact that wind farms might have on four bird species - Orange-bellied Parrot, the Tasmanian Wedge-tailed Eagle, the Swift Parrot and the White-bellied Sea-Eagle.
While the report found that wind farms are not likely to have a major impact on these species in terms of their population levels, it specifically expressed concern about the long-term survival of the Orange-bellied Parrot. It also recommended that further examination of Wedge-tailed Eagles should be undertaken at individual wind farm sites in order to better predict the impacts.
“The report has found that the Orange-bellied Parrot is at risk of becoming extinct within 50 years and that is before you take into account any impact of wind farms,” Senator Campbell said.
“It is estimated that there are somewhere between 99 and 200 Orange-bellied Parrots left in Australia and they are predominantly recorded within two kilometres of Australia’s coastline.
“While the report found that the impact of wind turbine collisions on the Orange-bellied Parrot may be small, up to one bird death per year, it concluded that almost any negative impact on the species could be sufficient to tip the balance against its continued existence.”
The report concluded:
“Given that the Orange-bellied Parrot is predicted to have an extremely high probability of extinction in its current situation, almost any negative impact on the species could be sufficient to tip the balance against its continued existence. In this context it may be argued that any avoidable deleterious effect - even the very minor predicted impacts of turbine collisions - should be prevented.” Wind farm collision risk for birds – Cumulative risks for threatened and migratory species, p47 (Orange-bellied Parrot report)
As a consequence of the report’s findings, the Australian Government’s Threatened Species Scientific Committee has been asked to review the status of the Orange-bellied Parrot.
“The Orange-bellied Parrot is currently listed as endangered under federal environment law but I want to know whether there is a case for this to be lifted to critically endangered to ensure that appropriate priority is given to conservation strategies necessary to enhance its long-term survival,” Senator Campbell said.
Ahead of decisions on a number of wind farm proposals being finalised, Senator Campbell requested the independent wind farm review following concern that the cumulative impacts of all wind farms on listed species had not been fully understood.
The Orange-bellied Parrot was of particular interest in terms of the assessment of the proposed Bald Hills wind farm in Gippsland, Victoria.
“On the basis of the information that has been presented to me on the Orange-bellied Parrot, I have decided not to approve the Bald Hills wind farm,” Senator Campbell said.
“I understand that this will be a disappointing outcome for the proponents of the wind farm but it is very clear to me from reading this report that every precaution should be taken to help prevent the extinction of this rare bird.
“This certainly does not mean there is no place for wind farms in Australia.
“In certain areas, the risk to birds from impacts with wind turbines will be higher than in others. As such, the potential for each project to have a significant impact on nationally threatened and migratory species will always need careful consideration on a case-by-case basis.
“I have long held the view that wind farms, when located in the right area with the support of the local community, play a very valuable role in Australia’s development of renewable energy.
“To this end, I have proposed that State and Territory Environment Ministers work with me on development of a National Code for the location of wind farms,” Senator Campbell said.
For full details of Wind farm collision risk for birds – Cumulative risks for threatened and migratory species, visit the Department’s web site at http://www.deh.gov.au/epbc/publications/wind-farm-bird-risk.html
Renae Stoikos 02 6277 7640 or 0418 568 434