24th April, 2021
By Helen Kempton, Mercury
A Tasmanian bird expert has thrown his weight behind claims Robbins Island is a sanctuary for shorebirds and no place for a wind farm.
A group of locals, including independent state election candidate Craig Garland, has long been calling for UPC Renewables’ proposed wind farm on the island in Tasmania’s far NorthWest to be scrapped.
Now BirdLife Tasmania convener Eric Woehler has joined that call, saying an industrial-scale wind farm with more than 100 turbines posed a serious risk to the shorebirds in the Robbins Passage-Boullanger Bay tidal flats.
Dr Woehler spoke at a public rally organised by the Circular Head Coastal Action Network in Hobart on Thursday.
“BirdLife Tasmania supports the development and use of renewable energy, but the proposed wind farm on Robbins Island is simply the wrong development for such a sensitive and internationally significant wetlands system,” Dr Woehler said.
UPC Renewables’ wind farm project would erect up to 163 turbines on the island, which would tower up to 270m from ground to blade tip.
Dr Woehler said the latest BirdLife Tasmania count had confirmed international significance of tidal wetlands, showing they regularly support more migratory and resident shorebirds than the rest of the state combined.
“With a count over 10,000 shorebirds, there is no doubt as to the international significance of the Robbins Passage-Boullanger Bay area for shorebirds,” Dr Woehler said.
The wetlands this week were listed in the Australian National Directory of Important Migratory Shorebird Habitat, prepared by BirdLife Australia for the Australian Government.
“Critically endangered species such as the eastern curlew and curlew sandpiper are clinging on in the North-West Tasmanian tidal wetlands, with their numbers sadly just a fraction of past counts,” Dr Woehler said.
BirdLife Tasmania’s shorebird counts began in the early 1970s and are now the longest time series data for migratory shorebirds in Australia.
“Our counts dramatically highlight the problems facing these remarkable migratory shorebirds at the far southern end of the East Asian-Australian flyway,” Dr Woehler said.
He said Tasmania served as an “early warning system” or “sentinel site” for migratory shorebird populations because the long-term counts identify population trends well before anywhere else.
“Remaining habitat such as the Robbins Passage-Boullanger Bay wetlands are becoming more critical by the day, and must be protected,” Dr Woehler said.