Austrailia - Canberra buys into wind farm battle

Protecting birds from turbines

Wind farms appear to be the next battleground between the Bracks Government and Canberra, after the federal Environment Minister promised to use his power to stand up for aggrieved rural communities and protect birds from turbines. Premier Steve Bracks had it "very wrong" on wind farms, particularly the inability of communities to reject them, said Environment Minister Ian Campbell. "We will ensure that the full weight of the Commonwealth's law is brought to bear on these projects and if they are in conflict with the law they will not be approved," he said. Senator Campbell has the power to reject major projects under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, although it is rarely used - only two out of 1232 applications have been rejected since the legislation came into effect in July 2000.

Senator Campbell said yesterday that future renewable energy projects in Victoria would only be given federal money if they had community support. On Tuesday, his department requested more information on the controversial Bald Hills wind farm in South Gippsland, a move that will delay the project. Senator Campbell said the decision was a signal to other wind developers that they could not "slide" proposals past the Federal Government. He said there were serious environmental issues about birds at the Bald Hills site, which is near a nature reserve, a wetland and a coastal park, and he wanted to know if migratory birds were going to be "splattered to smithereens". But Premier Steve Bracks said the project had undergone two environmental effects statements. "He's probably a little inexperienced. I don't think he's been there that long. I'd recommend he read the federal act and examine the requirements." News of the federal intervention came as another large wind farm proposal was announced. German company Pro Ventum International is asking Ms Delahunty to approve a 116-turbine farm 14 kilometres north-east of Colac. The turbines, each 125 metres tall, will produce 232 megawatts of power and would be visible from the Princes Highway between Geelong and Colac, sited at the foot of Mount Gellibrand.
Online editorial www.windfair.net
Trevor Sievert, Online Editorial Journalist
Austrailia, Canberra, wind farm, wind turbine, wind energy, wind power

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