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Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell
Wednesday, 5 April 2006
Press conference, Perth
I've announced this morning that I have decided not to approve the Bald Hills wind farm in Victoria. I have done so on the basis that the report commissioned by my department has said that the Orange-bellied Parrot, which is threatened and is in a very precarious situation as a species, can't really stand any further potential impacts. The wind farm proposed could have such an impact and hasten the extinction of that species. So based on that and for all the reasons I will cause to be published, this wind farm proposal will not proceed.
It's a bit of an awkward decision to knock back an environmentally sound alternative like this one on environmental grounds.
That is the concern, I've spent many days considering the decision. Clearly wind energy is a fantastically important part of Australia's clean energy future, we've seen about three billion dollars worth of wind energy proposals go forward and be constructed in recent years in Australia. So we're transforming the way energy is produced and wind is an incredibly important part of that, but in considerations of all proposals we have to look at the cost and the benefits environmentally - in this case the advice I have received is that the impacts would be unacceptable on this particular species. Now for other wind farm proposals right around Australia and in Victoria, this particular species will not be an issue, so I am certain to see many more wind farms built in Australia, but not at this location.
Are you supportive of the technologies?
Incredibly supportive, the Commonwealth has had a whole series of policies in place that have seen wind farm development in Australia go through the three billion dollar mark, so we've had massive, massive investment in wind, an explosion of wind farm projects right around the coast and we welcome that.
What I have said is that this shouldn't have ramifications for the rest of the wind energy sector. This is a very unique site, the area where the Orange-bellied Parrot arrives on the mainland - where it migrates from Tasmania across the mainland - is a relatively small area confined to a 2 km strip in a certain section of Victoria, so it shouldn't have ramifications on the rest of the wind energy sector, to the contrary, I think it actually creates clarity in Victoria, there's a lot of concern about the impact on birds.
This report is quite definitive, it says for example with the White-bellied Sea Eagle that the impacts would not be such that they would cause problem and the Swift Parrot they've said should not be problem with that species either, so I think the clarity that this report produces will in fact help proponents of wind farms even in Victoria.
The one issue we're faced with here won't have impact in the other parts of Australia and it will create clarity for people building wind farms in this section of Victoria.
How precarious is the situation with the orange-bellied parrot…?
Well it's such that this report says that if you even lose more than one bird per year it will impact on the potential for extinction, they're saying that under current conditions this bird could well be extinct in fifty years and that the wind farm proposal even if you kill one bird per year it will have an impact and likelihood to hasten their extinction. I found it fairly compelling as an environment minister, I think it would be particularly hard for me to sign off on a proposal having been given that advice, I have quite frankly agonised over it the last couple of days since I read the report and made my final decision on it this morning.