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Hainburg

Konrad-Lorenz-People's Petition 1984
Members of the Non-party Committee - some in animal masks - of the Konrad-Lorenz-People's Petition against the construction of the hydro-electric power station in Hainburg. May 7, 1984
© Harald Hofmeister, Die Presse

"A wooded water-meadow is not a wood, but simply wild undergrowth. If we tear it up, we can then landscape it and it will be more beautiful than it is now." (Anton Benya, Trade Union president, 1984)

"It was one of the first cases in which democracy came out for the wilderness." The population won out against the opinion of the government and against the parliamentary majority for the first time since the Zwentendorf Abstimmung of 1978, enthused Bernhard Lötsch, Director of the Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum) in Vienna who had himself taken part in the occupation of the water-meadow.

Hainburg made a significant difference to the Austrian political system. Something that had been accepted uncritically for many decades - expanding the use of water power to generate energy - this became the great topic of the day, the great battle. Ecology stood against economy, nature-preservation against energy-generation, countryside against concrete. The environmental movement was gaining strength at that time, especially in student circles, and this movement along with various media, led by the Kronen-Zeitung [newspaper] launched a campaign aimed at the protection of the unspoiled water-meadows with their flora and fauna, unique in central Europe. Both protagonists in the growth-oriented social partnership - industrial management as well as unions - were on the side of constructing the power station.

Tens of thousands staged a non-violent demonstration and occupied the Stopfenreuther water-meadow. Tens of thousands were prepared to act against these ecologically motivated demonstrators - in the interest of their jobs. Ecological arguments won out against economic ones, and growth-oriented economic policy suffered a defeat. The Socialist Party, setting the tone in the small coalition with the Freedom party, finally gave in to the ecologists. 15 years after Hainburg, the then chancellor, Fred Sinowatz, reflecting on the decision in the Standard (newspaper) of December 12, 1999, said: "From a purely technical point of view, with regard to renewable energy, the power station would have been well placed. But it could not be carried out without taking upon oneself a split in the population and above all in the young people." Nevertheless, the Socialist Party has not thrown off its "concrete-spreaders'" image in the minds of young ecologically aware voters.

Station: Hainburg
(Last update: 02/2006)

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