Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Orange-bellied parrot

A beautiful Australian parrot is also one of the most endangered bird species in this country. It's the Orange-bellied parrot which numbers around 200 adults in the wild. Each year the OBP takes two trips across Bass Strait migrating between Tasmania and the coastal areas of Victoria. Conservation of the OBP has caused problems for wind power advocates in Victoria because governments perceive that wind farms might hasten the extinction of the parrot.

Indeed The Age reports a Federal Government decision has blocked a controversial 52-turbine wind farm plan on Victoria's south-east coast. The $220 million development was approved by the Victorian Government in 2004, but the Federal Environment Minister, Ian Campbell, today announced he was overruling that decision over concerns for the OBP.

I am a conservationist and have written on conserving the OBP but this decision seems inefficient. The OBP can be captive-bred and when released in the wild, returns to its natural migratory behaviour. Moreover, the wind farms offer only a low chance of harming the parrots given the length of the Victorian coastline - the expected mortality would probably be much less than one bird per year. Thus a solution that would permit the OBP's conservation to be enhanced, but which would also permit the wind farm, would be to tax the windfarm the cost of raising two or three parrots in captivity each year for release in the wild. This would increase the wild population of OBP and permit the wind farm.

Prohibitions can make sense in dealing with biodiversity conservation problems but on this occasion they don't. A standard tax-subsidy solution would have left all sides better-off here.

(Thanks Lee for providing The Age article).


Bring Back EP at LP said...

I don't understand why people don't like wind farms.
They look great and are a tourist spot at blayney in NSW.

I understand it is only possible for the parrot to be killed.They have no evidence that it actually happens.
damned left wing government

brendan said...

Your tax solution could also be used (perhaps better used?) to do more about redressing the loss of haitat for the OBPs - loss of winter habitat along our coastline, rather than turbine strikes, is the reason that the species is in such a precarious state.

Prohibition is not the only option available in cases such as this. Section 134 of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the Cth legislation under which this decision was made) allows the Minister to attach conditions to an approval, including a condition to repair or mitigate "damage", so a one-off "tax-subsidy" approach would have been available to the Minister under the Act.

hc said...

Brendan, So the idea is that if you use up habitat you must replace it or compensate. Is that feasible - isn't the habitat rather specific? Don't you need explicit restrictions on development?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I love the ol' OBP. However, the wind farm decision smacked more of misplaced populism than a rational decision.

I note you're a bird watcher. I have a parrot-peeping site if you'd like to have a look.


hc said...

Grump's site is:

Great photography. well worth a look.

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