Federal Environment Minister Senator Ian Campbell is fighting a case brought by the proponents of the Bald Hills wind farm and Victoria, who suspect that his real concern in scuttling the project in May was to appease residents in the marginal Liberal electorate who had campaigned against the wind farm for aesthetic reasons, reported The Australian Financial Review (26 July 2006, p.8).
Departmental advice overridden: The Bald Hills project in Gippsland was rejected by Senator Ian Campbell after he received advice that the turbines would affect the population of orange-bellied parrots, a critically endangered species. But his department’s advice was that the effect on the parrots was so insignificant that the wind farm should go ahead.
Bias alleged: Victoria and the wind farm developer have asked the Federal Court to set the decision aside on the grounds that Senator Campbell may have been biased and that he used his powers for an improper purpose.
The parrot factor: In vetoing the development, Senator Campbell relied on a scientific study by environmental consultancy Biosis Research. It showed that if 23 wind farms went ahead in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, one orange-bellied parrot would be killed every 20 years. It is estimated that there are between 99 and 200 of the parrots left in Australia.
Campbell will not give evidence: On 25 July, Bald Hills Wind Farm asked the court to order Senator Campbell to give evidence in the case, due to begin on August 28. The judge declined the request, but only after Senator Campbell’s lawyer conceded that his client had not followed his department’s advice.
Recovery program proposals ignored: The department also recommended that the developers should have to contribute to efforts to save the parrots, but the court was told that Senator Campbell did not have regard to advice on an orange-bellied parrot recovery program.
"Why didn’t he get advice?" Nor did he provide reasons for refusing to follow the advice. "If he was so concerned about the orange-bellied parrot why didn’t he get advice?" Bald Hills Wind Farm director Andrew Newbold said outside court.
Campbell stays mum: A spokeswoman for Senator Campbell said it would be inappropriate to comment on the case, but insisted the study was a valid ground for stopping the development. Counsel for the developer, Gavan Griffith, QC, told the court the wind farm should have been approved on condition five parrots were bred and released each year. The case is continuing.
The Australian Financial Review, 26/7/2006, p. 8
Source: Erisk Net