As a dedicated, some would say obsessive, twitcher (a type of hard core
birdwatcher) I have spent many a winter’s day freezing my nuts off on the
western shores of Port Phillip Bay looking for
the endangered Orange-bellied Parrot [see right], usually with very little success.

Turns out I should have been hanging out with Federal Environment
Minister Senator Ian Campbell, who suddenly seems to have taken a big
interest in this little green parrot. According to The Agethis morning he’s shutting down a $220 million windfarm proposal at Bald Hills
in South Gippsland on the basis that, though the Orange-bellied Parrot has never
actually been recorded there, one might turn up and it may get caught in the spinning blades of the wind turbines.

Strange for a guy who didn’t bat an eye when it
came to building a detention
centre on Christmas Island smack in the middle of the breeding habitat
for the last thousand pairs of Abbot’s Booby left in the world.

And this level of concern about the OBP from a member of the same party as former Victorian
Premier Jeff Kennett, who once called the OBP a “trumped-up corella” when he wanted
to relocate Coode Island right in the middle of one of the parrot’s most crucial
wintering grounds.

The fact is that while the OBP, which breeds in South West
Tassie and migrates to the Victorian coast in winter, has had a
relatively stable breeding population over the past decade, it has virtually
disappeared from its traditional wintering grounds. The birds must be going
somewhere because they keep on returning to breed every year, but despite
extensive searches by me and scores of other birdwatchers we’re buggered if we
know where. It seems Ian Campbell must know something we don’t.

Which is great, I’m all for protecting this little critter, so if the
wind farm actually does threaten its continued existence then good on Ian
Campbell. One question though, why then did he not put the kybosh on another
wind farm project at Yambuk in Western Victoria where real live actual OBPs
have been seen regularly within the last few years?

Perhaps given this is a pet project of the Bracks government that has met stiff local
resistance in a marginal seat, the type of OBP that Campbell has in mind is of
the overtly, blatant political kind.

Peter Fray

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