Wednesday, 9 January 2013

What the NSW Roads & Maritime Services appears intent on ignoring about the new Pacific Highway route from Woolgoolga to Ballina - including the Glenugie to Iluka turn-off leg

NSW North Coast Pacific Highway Upgrade Biodiversity Assessment, November 2012 - Executive Summary excerpt
Much of the native vegetation in the study area has been cleared or fragmented for agriculture and rural development, with the exception of the Summervale Range and associated foot slopes, Wardell heath, and several adjoining state forests and conservation reserves. The project traverses a number of these key habitats and corridors including the boundaries of eight state forests
These formations consist of 57 separate vegetation communities including six Threatened
Ecological Communities listed as Endangered under the NSW Threatened Species
Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act) and one Critically Endangered Ecological Community
listed under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC
These are:
• Sub-tropical coastal floodplain forest of the NSW North Coast Bioregion (TSC Act)
• Swamp sclerophyll forest on coastal floodplains of the NSW North coast, Sydney Basin
and south east corner bioregions (TSC Act)
• Swamp oak floodplain forest of the NSW North Coast, Sydney Basin and South East
Corner bioregions (TSC Act)
• Coastal Cypress Pine shrubby open forest of the North Coast Bioregion (TSC Act)
• Freshwater wetlands on coastal floodplains on the NSW North coast, Sydney Basin and
South East Corner bioregions (TSC Act)
• Lowland Rainforest on floodplain in the NSW North Coast Bioregion (TSC Act)
• Lowland Rainforest of sub-tropical Australia (EPBC Act).
A total of 123 threatened flora and fauna species were identified either as known from or potentially occurring in the study area comprising 63 vertebrate fauna species (one an
endangered population), 54 plant species, three invertebrate species and three fish species and six conservation reserves which adjoin the project boundary.
The project traverses the major river catchments of the Clarence and Richmond rivers.
Eight Nationally Important Wetlands (from the Directory of Important Wetlands in Australia (2001)) and thirteen State listed wetlands (State Environmental Planning Policy No.14) are located in this study area. Many of these wetlands are recharged or fed by the Clarence River catchment and support significant areas of groundwater dependent ecosystems...
The proposed upgrade of the Pacific Highway from Woolgoolga to Ballina would have a significant impact on aspects of the biodiversity of study area. There would be a loss of
around 948 hectares of remnant vegetation from low to high condition, one third of which (337 hectares) consists of listed threatened ecological communities. An additional potential loss of 25 hectares is likely to be required for ancillary facilities. The scale of impact highlights the importance of mitigating and managing long-term indirect impacts to rare and high quality habitats and maintaining existing connectivity in the landscape...
As the project would result in clearing of native vegetation including critically endangered ecological communities, threatened species and their habitat, it is unlikely that the objective of maintaining or improving biodiversity values can be met....[my emphasis]
The NSW North Coast Bioregion supports high biodiversity and a considerable number of State and Commonwealth listed threatened species and ecological communities. Measures to avoid and mitigate listed key threatening processes have been duly considered through the route planning process and biodiversity management strategies. This thorough process considered the long-term protection of the majority of the threatened species identified as known or likely to occur in the study area.
There is no conclusive scientific knowledge on the ability of each of the assessed species to sustain a loss of the magnitude expected or resilience to change including adaptation to the proposed mitigation measures. As such, there is a risk that the project could have a significant impact on several threatened flora and fauna, most notably the coastal emu endangered population and the critically endangered Lowland Rainforest of Subtropical Australia present in the study area.....[my emphasis]

* Hat tip to Dr. Greg Clancy, Ecologist, Coutts Crossing, Clarence Valley, for drawing this assessment to my attention.

No comments: