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Transcript
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Senator the Hon. Ian Campbell

Monday, 10 April 2006

ABC Hobart, Tim Cox (presenter)

Wind Farm in Victoria


(Greetings omitted)

Presenter:
Give us some sort of background to the wind farm in Victoria and why the project's been given the red light?

Senator Campbell:
We gave, we had an inquiry into the cumulative impact of bird strike or avian deaths - basically birds hitting wind turbine blades. It basically found that all of the concerned species, and there were four of them, that three of them were ok. The fourth one, the orange-bellied parrot, that most of your listeners would now know as very highly endangered, that the cumulative impact of wind farms across that coast could hasten its extinction. There's only somewhere between 99 and just under 200 birds left in the world and the report said very clearly that to build another wind farm in this area, where there's so many been built already, would hasten its extinction, and that's where I make a quite strong differentiation from the Heemskirk proposal. I think it's very, very premature and I think quite frankly impossible to do, is to link this decision to a decision on the other side of Bass Strait, so I think that people getting upset about the impacts on Heemskirk is incredibly premature and unfounded.

Presenter:
Did you tell Senator Barnett that last week?

Senator Campbell:
Yes I did. I mean Guy's doing his job, and he's doing it well, and that is making sure that I'm aware of the potential impact, but I reassured him that the report that I had done was on the cumulative impact of bird strike across that bit of coast, and as people who visit that area know, there's a lot of wind farms being built right across there. One wind farm in one part of the coast is very different to having a number of them side by side, and it quite naturally, if you think about it logically, increases the potential of birds, particularly birds that have a very small population, actually running into them if you've got a lot of them across the coast. Now that, as I understand it, is not the case at Heemskirk and so I think drawing a parallel is quite silly quite frankly.

Presenter:
All right well Craig Woodfield, who I spoke to earlier this morning from the Tasmanian Conservation Trust said if Bald Hills was stopped for this reason, then Heemskirk has absolutely no chance, so that's not your understanding?

Senator Campbell:
Well quite the opposite. I'll be the person who's making the decision, and I'll be guided by the department. I think those who want to create controversy for the sake of it can do so, but there does not need to be any parallel whatsoever. If you look at the reason I got the report, or asked for the report, and had it done by independent experts was because of the cumulative impact across the coast. As I understand it, Heemskirk does not have that issue at all.

Presenter:
Have you examined what sort of impact the wind farm at Woolnorth in the north west of Tasmania is having? Is that what underpins any decision on wind farm development?

Senator Campbell:
Well see that one's been approved and, as I understand it, it's operating. They've got a conservation plan in place as I understand it. Most wind farms operators, including the ones who proposed Bald Hills, I mean they tried very hard but I had to make a very tough decision in the end, Tim, I'm very keen on building up Australia's wind energy industry. We've seen 450 turbines built over recent years, we're very keen to have a strong renewable energy presence in Australia. We're determined to try to play our role in stopping greenhouse gas emissions and saving the world from climate change - working both nationally and internationally - but we've also got to keep an eye on our native wildlife and our own environment. So these are tough decisions to be made, I know that whenever I make a decision in this portfolio I'm going to upset roughly half the people but that doesn't mean I've got to shy away from these tough decisions.

Presenter:
Sure. Now the wind farm at Woolnorth though has taken out some Wedge-tailed Eagles, whilst not threatened in the same numbers as the Orange-bellied Parrot, still very much an endangered species.

Senator Campbell:
Well this is the case. You see the Victorian Government who made a lot of noise about my decision last week actually stopped a wind farm in Victoria back in July last year because it impacts on Wedge-tailed Eagles…incredible hypocrisy about the opposition to my decision. Wedge-tailed Eagles - it depends which species you're talking about, there are a number of them - the Wedge-tailed Eagle in Victoria that the Victorian Labor Government stopped because of the impacts on that eagle were not even a threatened species. There are Wedge-tailed Eagles that are on the Threatened Species list. The Bald Hills proposal, for example, the report said it would have an impact on Wedge-tailed Eagles and also some White-bellied Sea Eagles and even Swift Parrots, but because their populations are robust, basically this one extra wind farm wouldn't have had an impact. The reality is wind farms do kill birds, they do kill sea birds and migratory birds; the real issue is can the species stand that sort of additional impact? Now for all of the species we looked at the answer was 'yes'; losing a bird here and a bird there is obviously regrettable but the species can stand it. But when it comes to the Orange-bellied Parrot, when you're potentially down to only 99 birds, the report said we can't afford to lose one. I think that's quite logical. It's very, very bad for the developers at Bald Hills farm, but I had to make a tough decision. It would have quite frankly been a lot easier to let it go ahead. But you have to make these decisions based on the best evidence, I'm glad that Guy Barnett respects that fact and I'm also glad that Tasmania has Guy Barnett standing up for their rights and their interests. And I will of course make sure that I look closely at the Heemskirk proposal and look at it in all of those aspects.

Presenter:
Your friendly neighbourhood Currawong, from the sounds of it. Senator Campbell, good to talk to you.

Senator Campbell:
Thanks, Tim.

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