Robbins Island wind farm project could ‘decimate’ endangered parrot population, documents reveal

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A controversial wind farm proposed for the northwestern tip of Tasmania could interfere with the recovery of a critically endangered parrot species, according to documents obtained under right to information laws.

The proposal could also have a significant impact on a population of Tasmanian devils, which are considered essential to the survival of the species.

The proposed Robbins Island wind farm would be located within the known flyway of the orange-bellied parrot, a species that is thought to have dwindled to just 51 adult breeding birds in the wild.

Robbins Island is considered essential to the survival of the species.

Documents prepared by Tasmania’s Orange-Bellied Parrot Program (OBP) last August revealed that the wind farm could create migration barriers, kill birds that collide with infrastructure, reduce critical habitat, alter or destroy habitat to the extent that the species is likely to decline and hinder the recovery of the species.

“The proposed wind farm is located within the known OBP flyway. There is no uncertainty associated with this. It is not known if a collision will occur, but the potential for one to occur exists,” indicate the documents.

The Woolnorth wind farm can be seen from Robbins Island, where another wind farm is proposed.(ABC News: Piia Wirsu)

The documents criticize developer UPC/AC Renewables’ wording in earlier documentation that no more than a “handful of birds” would use the area, saying it was a “poor choice of words” given that even five birds would constitute 10% of nature. population.

“The loss of any individuals due to collisions, disturbances, or barrier effects during construction or operation poses a significant risk to the species given the small adult population size,” the documents state.

“It should be noted that with the current population estimate, one bird equals 2% of the population.

“The proposal therefore has the potential to seriously disrupt the life cycle … of an ecologically significant proportion of the population.”

The analysis found that the proponent’s plans to manage orange-bellied parrots underestimated the risks posed to the species, said the investigations undertaken were not sufficient and criticized UPC/AC’s limited proposal Renewables only search 30% of its turbines per month for carcasses, claiming the strategy was unsuitable.

A spokesperson for UPC/AC Renewables said the information obtained in the Right to Know documents was compiled before its development application was finalized with the local council, which the company says responded to concerns raised.

They said a comprehensive preliminary orange-bellied parrot monitoring and management plan had been developed as part of the approvals process, and that a final plan would be developed before construction began if the project were granted approval. approvals.

Baby orange-bellied parrots held in a man's hand.
Robbins Island is located in the known parrot flyway.(Provided: Mark Holdsworth and Friends of OBP)

Eric Woehler of BirdLife Tasmania said orange-bellied parrots migrate through Robbins Island Passage twice a year, and even one death would be too many for a species on the verge of extinction.

“It’s gotten to a point where the numbers are so low that the pressures on the individuals who remain are so great, whether it’s illness, fire, wind farm, loss of “An individual bird poses an incredible risk for the increased likelihood of extinction, and that is unacceptable,” Dr Woehler said.

“It’s impossible to imagine how you could have a wind farm of this scale in a wetland inside the flyway and not kill any birds.”

Dr Woehler said the Robbins Island area should be declared an internationally recognized Ramsar wetland, as it met at least six listing criteria.

“It is the highest quality wetland in Tasmania, and certainly the highest quality wetland in Tasmania that is unprotected at the moment,” he said.

A woman smiles at the camera, with autumn greenery and trees in the background
Tasmanian Greens MP Rosalie Woodruff said the wind farm could have a disastrous impact on the parrot population.(ABC News: Loretta Lohberger)

Green MP Rosalie Woodruff said while there were other sites for a wind farm, there was no other place for parrots.

“We see this population coming back from the brink, but a wind farm on Robbins Island would decimate this population,” she said.

Federal Ministry of the Environment wants proof of ‘remote’ parrot risk

Last October, the Federal Environment Ministry wrote that it was concerned about the level of risk of orange-bellied parrot collisions and how fatal collisions would be handled.

Right to Know documents show the Department criticized how UPC/AC Renewables planned to respond to fatal parrot collisions and called on promoters to prove the risk of collisions was “remote”.

The Federal Department of the Environment was also concerned that the impacts of the wind farm on Tasmanian devils could be significant.

According to the documents, the demons are “widespread and abundant” on Robbins Island, where the population has not been affected by the devil’s facial tumor.

The area is described as a “probable bastion for the survival of the species”.

A baby orange-bellied parrot held in clasped hands by a scientist in Melaleuca, Tasmania.
Even one death would be too many for a species on the verge of extinction, advocates say.(ABC News: Felicity Ogilvie)

However, the Tasmanian EPA did not share the concerns of a significant impact on the devil, as long as the planned management and mitigation measures were implemented by the proponents.

Impacts on orange-bellied parrot and devil’s habitat appear to have been a sticking point as the proponents navigated the approvals process with the federal Department of the Environment.

The documents show a back-and-forth between Tasmania’s EPA and supporters in which EPA staff are suggesting adjustments, which the Greens described as “very concerning” – a sentiment also shared by Dr Woehler.

“It’s a lot like the EPA being employed to facilitate developments like massive wind farms on critically endangered bird habitats,” Ms. Woodruff said.

A Tasmanian Devil in the wild
Tasmanian devils are “widespread and abundant” on Robbins Island.(Provided by: Christo Baars)

Tasmania’s Environmental Protection Authority said engagement between its staff and the developer was required at a number of stages throughout the process of developing an environmental impact statement for s to ensure that directives were properly processed and that the public had access to accurate information.

The EPA is still evaluating the wind farm project.

UPC/AC Renewables said it provided additional information to the EPA where requested.

Once EPA’s assessment is finalized, it will be forwarded to the Federal Department of the Environment for further evaluation under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, before a decision is made. can be taken on the continuation of the wind farm.

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