Australia: Wind Farm Industry Policy Statement Handed Down

Last Updated: 12 August 2009
Article by Elisa de Wit and Christine Hutchinson

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) prescribes substantial penalties for activities that have significant impact on any matters of national environmental significance which have not been assessed and approved under that Act. In June 2009, the Wind Farm Industry Policy Statement (Policy Statement) was handed down to assist operators in the wind farm industry decide whether or not proposed actions require such assessment and approval.

The Policy Statement should be read in conjunction with Significant Impact Guidelines 1.1 - Matters of national environmental significance, and also Guideline 1.2 – Actions on, or impacting upon, Commonwealth land and actions by Commonwealth agencies. The Policy Statement and Guidelines are available from the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) website.


A referral is the first step in the assessment and approval process under the EPBC Act and one of the main aims of the Policy Statement is to provide assistance in deciding whether or not an action should be referred. The EPBC Act requires an assessment and approval if you propose to take an 'action' and if that proposed 'action' will have or is likely to have significant impact on one or more matters of national environmental significance. If an action fits these criteria, it should be referred to DEWHA for a decision by the Minister for Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (currently Peter Garrett).

'Action' is defined in the EPBC Act to include a project, development, undertaking, activity or series of activities, or an alteration to any of these things.

Matters of national environmental significance

Matters of national environmental significance relevant to wind farms that have arisen in Australia and overseas primarily concern the mortality of certain bird and bat species from collision with turbines. The Policy Statement lists the groups that are most at risk and the situations in which they are most affected.

Other major issues that should be considered are listed as:

  • The disturbance or alienation of important sites, on or off the wind farm, such as those where listed threatened animals concentrate when roosting, feeding, breeding or on migration
  • Wind farms have the potential to impact a threatened species where the action reduces the species' population, disrupts its breeding cycle or movements, or adversely affects its distribution or habitat.
  • The clearance or disturbance of native vegetation for turbines or other infrastructure
  • Turbine construction is given as an example, where vegetation removal is required that ordinarily forms part of a listed threatened ecological community, or contains listed threatened plant species, or is an important habitat for a listed threatened animal species
  • Transmission lines and access roads will cover a greater area than the turbines, potentially causing fragmentation of endangered plant species or communities. The construction can alter the hydrology of the area where the community occurs and can introduce weeds which invade the community.
  • Impact on World Heritage properties and/or National Heritage places
  • The Policy Statement provides an example of where a wind farm visually intrudes on the listed landscape, wilderness, historical, cultural or architectural values of a nearby property that has been listed as being of World Heritage significance
  • The National Heritage List details places or groups of places with outstanding natural, indigenous or historic heritage value to Australia.
  • Impact on Commonwealth marine areas
  • Offshore wind farms have not been developed yet in Australia and impact is still being investigated for overseas offshore wind farms. However, the Policy Statement makes the point that there is potential for the turbines, foundations and undersea cables to have significant impact on the environment in a Commonwealth marine area
  • Marine species' feeding or calving areas may be disturbed or their movement hindered, and marine habitat may be damaged by pollution, sedimentation or fragmentation.
  • Actions outside a Commonwealth marine area may also have potential impact via sedimentation or other downstream impacts.

Avoiding or mitigating impacts

The Policy Statement suggests that, even when it seems that a wind farm will be likely to impact on a matter of national environmental significance, a referral may not be fatal to the application if one can demonstrate that carefully researched mitigation procedures would be followed.

Key areas where significant impacts can be avoided or mitigated are cited as: location of the wind farm, placement of turbines, and road, infrastructure and turbine design.

The main way to avoid having a significant impact is to site the wind farm away from World Heritage/National Heritage properties and places, Ramsar wetlands, or the habitat of listed threatened or migratory species.

The Policy Statement gives guidelines for a turbine site:

"Turbines should be sited away from likely areas of bird movement and activity, particularly of listed threatened species or listed migratory species. Whenever possible, transmission lines should be installed underground to avoid collision and/or electrocution of large birds or bats. Underground lines should be installed with as little disturbance to the vegetation, substrate or hydrology of the area as possible".

It is suggested that all turbines, roads, transmission lines, fences and other infrastructure avoid damage to significant areas of natural habitat. In addition, timing the construction of these things to periods when migratory birds are absent, or when the ground is dry (to avoid damage from heavy machinery) are suggestions as to how significant impacts can be eliminated.

An important mitigation measure is to ensure that power lines and fences which provide attractive roosts and perches are placed well away from the turbines, to decrease the likelihood of collision. If lights are not entirely necessary, they are best avoided, as these attract insects which in turn attract insect eaters such as bats. Rabbit and livestock control is also important as rabbits and other small animals attract raptors and other birds of prey. A weed management strategy is vital as is the control of trenching, erosion and stormwater.

Contingency plans and stop work procedures are also suggested as necessary where listed threatened species of plants or injured or nesting threatened animals are discovered, or where a site is found to be of heritage or Indigenous value. In addition, construction holes may need to be covered so that listed terrestrial species such as lizards and other small animals are not trapped in them.

Revegetation programs after construction is completed are often necessary and have been found to be effective.

When should you make a referral?

Wind farms have the potential to impact on matters of national environmental significance at any stage from construction to decommissioning and so it is vital that consideration be given to this matter from the planning stage onwards. The Policy Statement cites some circumstances where you might consider referral. These include where there is doubt or uncertainty about the nature and type of impacts on matters of national environmental significance, or where the likely significance is marginal or the proposal is likely to be highly contentious.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Elisa de Wit
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.