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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).

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