There are few campaigners who can match Victorian Western District farmer and grazier, Hamish Cumming for courage and sheer determination.
Hamish is a true environmentalist – his love of endangered brolgas and his sterling efforts to prevent them being sliced and diced by these things, has made him a true Victorian legend. Hamish has served it up to Green’s Senator, Richard ‘Die Nasty’ and his wind industry backers – who all seem to think that rank hypocrisy is the new “black” (see our post here).
And – for years – Hamish has been on the war path about endemic, institutional corruption within the Victorian Planning Department and – the grubbiest of them all – the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE).
Hamish has uncovered the fact that, in order to help their wind industry ‘mates’ get planning applications over the line, those involved have actively removed data detailing the numbers and nesting sites of the rare and endangered brolga from official records.
Whenever challenged by Hamish about the “mysterious” disappearance of data records – which took decades to gather – these boys have responded to a man with back-sliding, prevarication, obfuscation and downright lies.
Not content with tackling corruption head-on, Hamish has launched an appeal to the masses with a petition directed at saving what’s left of Victoria’s Brolga habitat.
To find out more and sign up to Hamish’s petition, click here: Protect Brolga habitat in southwest Victoria now! Here’s a video and a rundown on the threat Brolgas face from giant industrial wind turbines:
There are only around 500 Brolgas left in southwest Victoria. Inappropriately sited wind farms have the potential to destroy this population through displacement from habitat and collision with turbines and the massive powerlines associated with wind projects. We are asking for your help to lobby the Victorian Planning Minister, Richard Wynne, who currently has the Dundonnell wind farm application before him, to refuse this permit and recommend it be built elsewhere.
This wind farm is being proposed in one of the most the important Brolga habitats in the state.
We believe this proposal is inappropriate and not in line with conservation best practice. Brolga habitat is rare, with less than 2% of the original habitat in Victoria still remaining today. The project could be moved to another location where it will not have such an impact.
This site arguably has the highest density of Brolga flocking sites in the state. Page 4 of Trustpower’s EES Brolga report states there are 52 recorded historical flocking sites in the Dundonnell radius of investigation (approx 10 km). For comparison, Macarthur and Chepstowe wind farms only had 2 each.
The state government has a guideline which recommends a buffer of 5 kilometres from Brolga flocking sites and 3.2 kilometres from nesting sites should be applied.
In this project proposal, Trustpower wants to reduce the buffers to 350 metres without sound scientific reasons.
The Brolga collision modelling used also contains a mathematical error, which means they are underestimating the Brolga death rate from collision by a factor of 100.
Trustpower claimed through their consultants (in their reports and under cross-examination during the Dundonnell panel hearing) that 7000 Brolga flights were forecast to cross the wind farm each year and that each of these are treated as single bird flights. Yet in reality, Brolgas fly in pairs or larger groups.
Trustpower assumes in their modelling that 95% of these birds will avoid passing through any turbines. They then assume the 5% (or 350 birds) that will potentially fly through the blades will rarely be killed because they will be flying at 60 km/h (which in reality is not always the case).
Trustpower claims only one Brolga will be killed every two years – they assume that of the 700 Brolgas they estimate fly through the turbines every two years, that only one will be killed – a risk of 0.143%.
I then built my own collision impact model. At the panel hearing I demonstrated using my model (a model which has been checked and agreed to be accurate by Melbourne University), that the mortality risk for a single Brolga in flight is a minimum of 14% at the outer parts of the blade swept area and a much higher risk as you go towards the centre.
For a flock flying in formation, the risk at the outer parts increases to 43%. I issued a copy of my model to the proponent, their consultants, DELWP and DTPLI, yet all seem to have ignored my mathematics and have apparently accepted the error in Trustpower’s work, despite being aware of it.
So using a bare minimum of 14%, my model predicts 49 Brolgas could be killed at Dundonnell in two years. This is nearly one hundred times greater than the figure put forward by Trustpower.
I would have thought 7000 flights and 52 flocking sites would have been enough to stop this project, but apparently not. The Minister has accepted Trustpower’s claim that only one Brolga every two years would be killed and has ignored the errors that were drawn to their attention during the planning process.
The Planning Minister has already signed off the Environmental Effects Statement, but the permit has not been approved yet. Government policy is that projects need to have a net zero impact on the Brolga population. I cannot see how the Dundonnell wind farm can possibly achieve this.
Trustpower indicates in the mitigation section of their report that it is possible to increase the population and so have a net zero effect when they kill Brolga, yet they have no scientific basis for this claim – and how can DELWP accept this claim when DSE/DELWP have been unable to prevent Brolga populations dropping for the past 30 years?
I am concerned that this project is about to be signed off despite the likely environmental consequences, not only for Brolga, but for raptors and many migratory bird species that use the wetlands and travel through the area.
If Dundonnell goes ahead, it sets a precedent for other proposals to follow suit. We’ve been asking local and state government for many years to implement a Brolga planning overlay that would prevent wind farms from being built in Brolga habitats, but this has been ignored.
The protections for flora and fauna that we have all naively assumed are in place can no longer be relied on, nor can we rely on the Greens to be champions of the environment.
I went to the Greens’ Greg Barber, asking for his help to expose the error and help get this wind farm proposal moved to a more appropriate location. So far Greg Barber refuses to help protect the Brolga and its habitat.
Over 60 other rare and threatened species of birds use this same habitat including many migratory birds. But Minister Wynne and the Greens’ Greg Barber so far seem happy to accept the Trustpower error and put Brolga and other species in the firing line.
Wouldn’t it be a lot smarter to put the wind farm elsewhere and leave the Brolga habitat alone?
Please act now, the future of the Brolga depends on it.
Please sign our petition now. Thank you!