Wind farms - a solution or a problem?
Photo © Wildlife Queensland
Update 24 Feb 2012
Wildlife Queensland has taken the opportunity to forward comments on the proposed wind farm to be developed by RATCH Australia Pty Ltd to the relevant Commonwealth department. Submissions closed on 9 January 2012.
On 24 January, the project was deemed a controlled action and the assessment method
is to be by Environment Impact Statement.
The proposed wind farm is to be located at the northern most section of the Herberton Range about 20km SSW of Mareeba. The site is located on a 2422 ha property. It will comprise 75 wind turbines and associated infrastructure and eventually a 200 seat restaurant/visitor centre. Clearing of about 38ha of undisturbed remnant dry sclerophyll woodland will occur. Read the referral here.
Usually Wildlife Queensland is a supporter of alternative green energy projects but on this occasion there is opposition to the proposal. It is the right project in the wrong place.
Only matters of national environmental significance or listed key threatening processes can be considered by the relevant Commonwealth Minister, or his or her delegate, under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act.)
However this proposed project triggers two matters of national environmental significance and several key threatening processes. Furthermore the proponents freely admit to extensive knowledge gaps in flora and fauna on or near the site.
Photo © Wildlife Queensland
The proposed development occurs in known habitat of the endangered northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus). The impact of the proposed development on the quoll and its habitat is unknown. Some of the mitigation proposals such as post construction surveys annually for the first two years and once every three years there after may not be adequate if the relatively short life span of the quoll is taken into consideration. The area is known for its concentration of plant species of conservation interest such as, but not limited to, Acacia purpureopetala, Grevillea glossadenia, Homoranthus porteri, and Plectranthus amoenus. Again the impact of the proposed development on vulnerable and threatened flora is unknown. There is a potential threat to the Spectacled Flying-fox, Large–eared Horseshoe Bat, as well as several birds. Migratory species including, but not limited to, the Sarus Crane and the Rainbow Bee-eater are also under threat from this proposed development.
In addition there are at least three key threatening processes triggered by this proposed development.
- Invasion of northern Australia by invasive grasses
- The biological effects including lethal toxic ingestion caused by toads
- Land clearance
Northern quoll and cane toads
Photo © Scott Burnett
Transects and road construction required for the project will encourage the spread of weeds as well as the potential for increased feral animal activity resulting in predation of our native fauna. Mitigation measures are to be put in place but details are not provided so as to assess their effectiveness.
The proponents state 'additional ecological assessments will be carried out throughout 2012 to assist in clarifying some potential risks'. Surely these should have been undertaken prior to submitting the referral documents?
Knowledge gaps in flora, fauna and the potential impact of the proposed development exist.
- admitted knowledge gaps
- threats to threatened species and communities
- threats to migratory species
- triggering at least three key listed threatening processes
Wildlife Queensland’s position is to oppose the development.
At the very least, approval should not be considered until the knowledge gaps are addressed and the additional ecological assessments, advised by the proponents as being required, are undertaken.
Update 24 Feb
The project was deemed a controlled action and the assessment method
is to be by Environmental Impact Statement. On 24 February, draft EIS guidelines were released for public comment. Submissions close on 26 March2012.
What Wildlife Queensland is doing
- What Wildlife Queensland is doing:
- Writing a submission addressing matters of national environmental significance and key threatening processes
- Researching local and regional implications
- Alerting the broader community about the proposed development
For more information on Wildlife Queensland's activities, call us on +61 7 3221 0194 or send us an email.