State Government Minister David Templeman makes views clear on offshore wind farm risk to migratory birds

Headshot of Sean Van Der Wielen
Sean Van Der WielenHarvey-Waroona Reporter
The Shire of Waroona is concerned about the potential harm to migratory birds from wind farms proposed offshore between Bunbury and Mandurah.
Camera IconThe Shire of Waroona is concerned about the potential harm to migratory birds from wind farms proposed offshore between Bunbury and Mandurah. Credit: Steve Helber/AP

A State Government Minister has urged caution over offshore wind farm projects planned off the coast of between Bunbury and Mandurah amid concerns about the potential impact on migratory birds.

Arts, Sport and Heritage Minister David Templeman also said determinations about the power-generation facilities should be based on the science, in response to questioning by a Peel council.

At the Peel Budget Breakfast held last month, Waroona chief executive Mark Goodlet raised a question about impacts offshore wind farms might have on migratory birds which visit the internationally recognised Peel-Yalgorup wetlands system every year.

He brought up conversations the council had been having with renewable energy operators about proposals to have wind farms located off the nearby coast.

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“What we’re hearing from the wind farm industry is they’re doing all these investigations which are just way too close (to the coast) without the science done to say is there an appropriate buffer to the Ramsar (recognised) wetlands,” he said.

“The last thing that we want is our birds that fly from Siberia to get clipped just before they land in in the wetland.”

Mr Goodlet asked Mr Templeman whether he supported the idea of a precautionary “buffer zone” being put in place on potential offshore wind developments close to the wetlands until there is more scientific understanding of the potential impacts.

In response, Mr Templeman said he was an “unapologetic supporter of a little bird that flies from Siberia”.

“This is a unique aspect of Australia and Western Australia and our region,” he said.

“To think these birds from various parts of the world on their fly ways come here every year. . . it is something that we should be so appreciative of.”

Mr Templeman said there were several examples across the country where it was a contentious issue, but said the focus should be on the “onsite science”.

“In my personal view, if those birds are threatened by something like that, then we’ve got to find another place,” he said.

“I’m sorry but that’s how basic I am about that because that element is part of our story of how we share the history and the story of our region.”

The Indian Ocean coast between Perth and Bunbury was identified as a potential offshore wind energy location by the Federal Government last year, with three wind energy projects currently proposed in the region.

Melbourne-based Oceanex Energy is looking into the feasibility of a 2000-megawatt wind farm 20km off the coast, while Danish company Copenhagen Energy is evaluating a 3-gigawatt system located between 15km and 75km offshore from Binningup.

The Myalup Offshore Windfarm Project, a joint venture between German-based Skyborn Renewables and Britain’s Australis Energy, is planning the closest turbines to the shore with 300MW of wind power generation proposed for 5.5km off the coastline between Binningup and Preston Beach.

However, the projects lie off the coast from the Peel-Yalgorup wetland system, which has been recognised as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar convention since 1990 and runs from Mandurah in the north to Myalup in the south.

Copenhagen Energy development manager Joy Frances-Hayes said the company had “given careful consideration” to minimising impacts on the wetland system as part of its initial design and development assessment.

“We will be conducting extensive research with bird specialists once the Federal Government declares an offshore zone in WA, opening the way for consultation and stakeholder feedback,” she said,

“We are committed to conducting comprehensive research on all environmental factors including bird populations to ensure we deliver the best project possible.”

David Templeman speaking at the Peel Budget Breakfast earlier this month.
Camera IconDavid Templeman speaking at the Peel Budget Breakfast earlier this month. Credit: Sean Van Der Wielen/Harvey-Waroona Reporter

Oceanex chief executive Andy Evans said the company’s projects go through detailed feasibility studies and are subject to a “rigorous” approval process.

“The Bunbury Offshore Wind Farm is no different to any other project and will go through detailed environmental studies which include all types of flora and fauna, of whatever type, and will extend well beyond migratory birds,” he said.

“Oceanex Energy will conduct all required studies and welcomes discussion over the development period, which will take many years.”

A spokesperson for Skyborn Renewables said environmental stewardship and sustainability were its core values.

“We view the minister’s concern for local wildlife as laudable, and remain committed to developing solutions that prioritise the preservation of the local ecology, ensuring that our actions have a positive, lasting impact on the environment and the diverse wildlife it supports,” they said.

The Peel Harvey Catchment Council states 35 migrant bird species have been identified in the wetlands, with some travelling up to 24,000km a year between the northern and southern hemispheres.

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