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Minister announces funding for programs that will improve survival of orange-bellied parrot.

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Tuesday 29 August 2006

Minister announces funding for programs that will improve survival of orange-bellied parrot


TONY EASTLEY: The small migratory bird that once stopped a $220 million Victorian wind farm continues to attract political attention. 


A short time ago, the Environment Minister Ian Campbell announced the orange-bellied parrot will receive the greatest federal funding ever allocated for an endangered species. 


It was Senator Campbell who controversially blocked a Gippsland wind farm proposal citing a threat to the bird.  


Annie Guest reports. 


ANNIE GUEST: Senator Campbell overturned the Victorian Government's approval for the wind farm in eastern Victoria in April, on the grounds that it could threaten the endangered orange-bellied parrot. 


The State Government criticised it as political because the electorate's sitting Federal Liberal MP had campaigned against the farm at the last election. 


It scoffed at the Minister's argument that the proposal's 52 wind turbines could harm the bird, citing a consultant's report indicating one parrot would be killed by the turbines at the site every 600 years. 


After the wind farm's proponent challenged the decision in court, Senator Campbell agreed to reconsider it, saying he was prepared to look at new information. 


But he stood by his position, denying it was political, saying he was forced to make a decision ahead of time and there's genuine concern the rare parrot could become extinct. 


Today, he says he's again acting to prevent that eventuality, visiting King Island to announce record funding for the bird. 


IAN CAMPBELL: Well, it's the biggest ever investment in an Australian threatened species. It's tripling the amount of money available. It's tripling the amount of money we've spent in the last 17 years on the orange-bellied parrot. 


ANNIE GUEST: And how will it be spent? 


IAN CAMPBELL: It's going to be spent, for example, improving habitat, working with local farmers to improve habitat both on northern Tasmania, on King Island, where I am today, in Victoria, and in South Australia. 


Programs such as the feral cat program, which we're funding here on King Island, we want to extend that. We've already caught 106 feral cats, destroyed them with traps and guns, massively improving the chances of the survival of the orange-bellied parrot.  


Real, practical, on-the-ground effort to improve the chances of survival of this incredibly endangered species.  


ANNIE GUEST: Senator Campbell, questions are likely to be asked about whether this is an attempt to clear your name after criticism over the Gippsland wind farm episode? 


IAN CAMPBELL: No, I make no apology for this. The Australian Government has put into place a very strong environment law that identifies threatened species, and requires us to put into place recovery plans. 


This is a very serious recovery plan for a species that is as endangered as the Siberian tiger, and the polar bear... the panda bear, should I say. 


TONY EASTLEY: The Environment Minister, Senator Ian Campbell speaking there on King Island this morning, announcing that the Federal Government will spend $3 million on the preservation of the orange-bellied parrot. 


That report from Annie Guest.