Birds Australia's Gluepot Reserve was purchased in 1997 to set aside 50,000
ha of core mallee habitat, for the conservation of six nationally threatened
species - Black Eared Miner, Scarlet Chested Parrot, Red Lored Whistler,
Striated Grasswren, Malleefowl and Regent Parrot. It adjoins the Bookmark
Biosphere, which with the recent purchase of Taylorville Station south of
Gluepot now covers over 1 million hectares of mallee.
Last summer and the summer before, South Australia suffered severe power
blackouts due to higher demand than supply. Last year there were two
proposals to construct interconnectors with NSW to tap into the national
power grid. After extensive consultation on possible route options, one
powerline was going ahead through farming country, long lenghts of it would
go underground. For the other one it appeared in the press as if a decision
was made to construct it south of the River Murray, also through largely
cleared farmland (pastoral and wheatgrowing areas).
However, it now appears that the 500 or so farmers affected, through their
local and state govt lobbyists managed to put the possible routes back on
the drawing board. There are three options: the southern route as I
described before, with little environmental impact; a "central" route which
would cut right through the centre of Bookmark and follow the northern
boundary fence of Gluepot; and a "northern" route which would follow the
northern boundary of Bookmark (hence approx 30 km N of Gluepot). The
northern boundary of Bookmark is by no means the edge of the mallee, as it
extends northwards for many 10s of kilometres. So while the "northern" route
would not cut through any existing reserves it still cuts right through the
relatively undisturbed mallee habitat.
It seems that even the farmers understand that the central route is not
acceptable, but they seem to be pushing the northern route. A meeting with
the company proposing to build the powerline (Transgrid) is scheduled for
tomorrow, where farmers as well as representatives from the various
organisations involved in the Bookmark and surrounding areas will a get a
chance to outline their view (again). The SA Dept for Environment and
Heritage, who manages parts of Bookmark, seems slightly in favour for the
northern route (!) The meeting will be chaired by the major of the local
council, who has a large wheat growing property in the southern area
I will be attending the meeting as a representative for Gluepot.
I think since it is because of the farmers' pressure that this project is
back on the drawing boards, it will be worth for
birdwatchers/conservationists to put the pressure on Transgrid. There seems
to be a perception that it is 500 farmers against 3 or 4 mallee reserve
properties. They fail to understand that Gluepot alone is backed by BA's
7000 members, and similar setups are in place for some Bookmark properties.
I have drafted a letter that I would be happy to make available to anyone
who would wish to send or fax a copy to Transgrid. Please reply to me
personally to obtain the draft and contact details.
Birdwatching SA website: http://www.riverland.net.au/~peterw
Gluepot website: http://ww.riverland.net.au/gluepot
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