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Byron Shire
April 15, 2021

Feds scrutinise bypass impact on critically endangered snail

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The impact of the Byron bypass on the critically endangered Mitchell’s rainforest snail is being investigated by the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy.

Aslan Shand

The Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy (DoEE) has confirmed with The Echo that they are currently ‘in contact with the Byron Shire Council regarding their obligations under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act’ (EPBC) in relation of the construction of the Byron bypass.

This is owing to the fact that Council did not refer themselves to DoEE in relation to the bypass’s potential impact on a matter of national environmental significance, that is, the impact it may have on the critically endangered Mitchell’s rainforest snails.

The Echo asked if the Commonwealth was ‘required to ensure that the council stops work or changes their approach to ensure that no further damage to the potential habitat of endangered species is incurred’. A DoEE spokesperson said, ‘The proponent [Byron Shire Council] will bear all risk if work continues at the site and a significant impact is identified.’

While Council has stated that ‘the work Council has undertaken on the bypass has been in keeping with the protocols and guidelines set out by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (formerly OEH)’, the permission to go ahead from the DoEE should have been approved prior to the NSW state approvals of the OEH.

‘If the Mitchell’s rainforest snails are present that throws into question the possibility that under the current biodiversity-offset laws that offsetting this with 40ha of degraded swampland may not be possible,’ says Ballina MP Tamara Smith.

Meeting accepted

The Byron Shire mayor’s invitation for another briefing for Ms Smith on the bypass has been willingly accepted.

‘The meeting this week will be the fourth or fifth time I have discussed my concerns about the bypass with the Byron Shire mayor,’ she told The Echo.

‘I will be particularly focused on the Commonwealth environment laws that pertain to the Mitchell’s rainforest snail and the area identified as rainforest, and discrepancies between the Construction Management Plan by GHD that says the snails are there and the Environmental Impact Statement that says it’s unlikely they are there.

Independent survey

‘I’ll be asking for an independent survey. The precautionary principle embedded in the government’s planning laws demands that no stone remain unturned in terms of identifying accurately species that a development will impact upon. With a Greens-led council the community’s expectations are of course much higher,’ she said.

‘The community have legitimate expectations that with a Greens-led council and the emphatic Greens policy that does not support biodiversity offsetting that those councillors would be doing everything possible to identify correctly and transparently what species are there and their status.

I have had hundreds of constituents talk to me about this issue and it is incumbent on me to pursue these environmental concerns. In an era of extinction of species nothing less is expected of me as a Greens MP.’

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  1. There is little doubt Mitchell’s Rainforest Snails are there. The margins of Cumbebin Swamp are a known “hotspot” for this species. Despite limited surveys and from mostly incidental observations, this species has been discovered off Gordon St, Keats St, Lilli Pilli Dr and Old Bangalow Rd.

    Over 15% of all official records for this species have been made since 2016 within 1.4km of the proposed route, and all next to roads where access is easy. It has been found to the west and south in the same contiguous habitat.

    The question then arises, did Council actually conduct the required targeted surveys under optimum weather conditions for this Critically Endangered species for their so-called “Environmental Impact Statement”? This same species that GHD had advised them existed there? Council’s unwillingness to be forthcoming with this information and lack of self-referral to DoEE raises questions about their their legal obligations and the credibility of the whole process. Not to mention the Greens commitment to Ecologically Sustainable Development and the precautionary principle. What else has been glossed over? Maybe our BSC has learned the lessons of some of our shonky developers just a little bit too well? Well done the Echo, at least someone seem to know the process and attempts to keep us informed.

  2. The Greens Party prefer saving frogs and snails than saving the lives of humans . When you call the ambulance or fire brigade during an emergency you pray that it isn’t during the peak period (which is getting longer every year) . If a humans life is lost due to traffic jams blocking the only railway crossing at Shirley St I am sure there will be a huge uproar and we can thank the hard core old guard Greens for part of the problem.

    • A little fuzzy thinking here. It’s been the Greens dominated Council pushing this route all the way. A much better alternative was available.

      Halting the exponential rate of species loss is patently crucial to the long-term survival of homo ‘sapiens’. By contrast, if you think this bypass will make any significant difference to the problems on Ewingsdale Rd I’d like you to explain how – especially when extra traffic will reach it via the pedestrian-friendly masterplan plans for Johnson Street.

      Were you out there campaigning against the West Byron developments on the same grounds: the inability of Ewingsdale Rd to cope with emergencies given the locations of our hospital and emergency services?


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