22.1 C
Byron Shire
April 19, 2021

Council takes another look at habitat destruction for bypass

Latest News

No accountability for proven police misconduct

On Australia Day in 1998, I was the legal observer for the ‘Nude Ain’t Rude’ rally at Belongil Beach.

Other News

Arakwal chemicals

David Gilet, Byron Bay I have long been dismayed by the use of Glyphosate by Parks & Wildlife in Arakwal National...

Industry response to Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety

As the pandemic has again highlighted the standard of treatment of our elders, Australia’s aged care industry has urged...

Sprout lovers

Sprouts can sometimes be overlooked on the weekly grocery list… except for those in the know, of course!

Hippie fools

Edward Kent, Suffolk Park So, have the ‘hippie’ hipsters of Byron Bay figured out how the new global establishment party at...

Housing crisis and Council

Avital Sheffer, Mullumbimby Population growth in this Shire is inevitable like it or not. Those who are being pushed out by...

Poor Council drains

Kate Anderson, Mullumbimby In response to and support of Kerry Gray’s and Robin Gracie’s letters Echo 31 March). The McGoughans Lane...

The critically endangered Mitchell’s rainforest snail has triggered an investigation by the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy into the Byron bypass route.

Aslan Shand

Byron Shire Council has confirmed it will now refer itself to the Commonwealth Department of Environment and Energy (DoEE) over the presence of the critically endangered Mitchell’s rainforest snail and the potential destruction of its primary habitat to build the Byron bypass.

Under the Act the council was required to self-refer the Byron bypass project to the Commonwealth for consideration prior to seeking approval from the state government if ‘the action they are proposing to take will have a significant impact on matters of national environmental significance’ according to the DoEE. However, council’s original environmental study didn’t identify Mitchell’s rainforest snail or its primary habitat.

Mayor briefs MP

Multiple issues around the construction of the bypass have been raised repeatedly by local Ballina MP Tamara Smith, who last Friday attended another briefing on the project with Byron Shire mayor Simon Richardson.

‘I took the opportunity to meet with the mayor and general manager to specifically discuss the environmental concerns that I have and that have been raised with me by many people in the community as well as those concerns raised by highly respected ecologists, including a formal letter from the NSW Ecological Association,’ Ms Smith told Echonetdaily.

Crucial mistakes

‘Local ecologist David Milledge accompanied me to the meeting and gave a detailed presentation to the mayor about what he [Mr Milledge] has identified as crucial mistakes in the original environmental mapping conducted by Council’s planner.’

It is understood that the council’s environmental consultants only conducted two days of fieldwork during their BioBanking assessment and didn’t identify the critically endangered floodplain rainforest present, which is primary habitat for the critically endangered Mitchell’s rainforest snail. However, respected local ecologist David Milledge, who has conducted an independent assessment of the bypass route, identified the floodplain rainforest and its significance as primary habitat for Mitchell’s rainforest snail. The snail has since been found in the floodplain rainforest within the Bypass footprint by ecologist Ross Wellington.

‘Had the critically endangered snail and the primary habitat been correctly identified, it is highly likely that this section of the bypass route would have been impossible under both state and federal legislation,’ Ms Smith said.

Offsetting commitment sought

If the bypass is to go ahead, Ms Smith said she has requested the mayor ‘to guarantee that primary Mitchell’s rainforest snail habitat is purchased by Council to offset the impact’.

Speaking to Echonetdaily, Mayor Richardson said, ‘It was great meeting with Tamara and we had an open and solution-focused meeting. Though of course it would show a lack of respect to those present to share all of the details, in general, the meeting mainly focused around ensuring that vegetation that is to be enhanced and restored is of the same type to that which will be removed, especially in regards to the Mitchell’s snail habitat.’

The mayor also invited Mr Milledge attend the upcoming biodiversity panel that will recommend ‘the best and most appropriate land to go above and beyond the state government offset requirements’.

This was confirmed by Mr Milledge who told Echonetdaily, ‘That at a recent meeting with the Mayor, Council officers, local member Tamara Smith and myself, I agreed to work with Council’s Biodiversity Committee in identifying a suitable and adequate stand or stands of floodplain rainforest in the Cumbebin Swamp area that could be set aside to be managed in perpetuity as secure habitat for the snail. Such rainforest would also serve as compensatory habitat for other rainforest-dependent threatened species which did not receive habitat compensation under Council’s BioBanking agreement.’

While the council has belatedly self-referred to the DoEE it is not certain what, if any action, the department will be willing to take over the breach.

When asked about possible responses from the DoEE a spokesperson said, ‘The EPBC Act provides for a range of enforcement tools to deal with identified non-compliance. These include enforceable undertakings, remediation determinations, and injunctions through to seeking prosecution and/or civil penalties.’

Money or species?

‘As a consequence of what highly regarded ecologists are presenting to me as the state member for Ballina I am of the view that we have missed legally protecting a critically endangered species and its primary habitat,’ said MP Tamara Smith.

‘People in authority that I respect have made comments like, “It’s only a few snails”, “It’s not that much land” and insinuated that my raising these issues will cost council money.

‘In a biodiversity hotspot such as we are blessed to be the guardians of in Byron Shire, and in a time of daily extinction of species, the ends do not justify the means.’

Stage 2 on hold

As a result of the referral to the DoEE the council will continue with stage one of the bypass but will not start stage 2, which is scheduled to begin in November, ‘until further advice is received from the Commonwealth’.

A Council spokesperson confirmed with The Echo that, ‘Council’s decision to refer works to the Australian Government’s Department Environment and Energy for approval under the Environmental Protection and Conservation [Act] was for those [works] in stage two, as well as a small section of vegetation in stage one.

‘Work on stage one is continuing with the section of vegetation quarantined while DOEE considers the referral.’

Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.


  1. Hallelujah! Thank you Tamara Smith for persisting. Byron shire councils actions in this by pass leave a lot to be desired.

  2. Well done to all those who have continued the struggle, particularly Jan Barham. I don’t see why the whole thing isn’t halted pending the DEE’s response and investigation of the feasibility of various land purchases. It may be that sense prevails and a whole different route is selected. This would have the dual benefit of affording the long-suffering Butler Street residents their due consideration.

  3. Gee whiz … now you’s decide to take a look… after the destruction that has already been done !

    Thanks Tamara, but Jan Barham is the one who’s been doing the hard yards on this !

    • Not quite as destructive as bulldozers no doubt and not Council instigated. We are talking about destruction of habitat not a bit of cohabitation. In any case is this a good reason to kill a few more?


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Pottsville policing forum asks the hard questions

Members of the Pottsville and Tweed Coast community say that in response to an increase in criminal activity in the area and their request for increased police presence, they were hosting a police presentation at Pottsville.

Coalition ‘hellbent’

Mat Morris, Bangalow The NSW coalition seems to be hellbent on outdoing their federal counterparts when it comes to the denigration of women and protection of...

An insult, Poppa

From what I can understand, Poppa Veet Mayo’s letter seems to imply that this latest COVID scare is a government conspiracy (yes, another one). To...

Upgrades for Lighthouse Parade in Ballina

One of the showcase areas of Ballina is about to get a safety and aesthetic upgrade, with the Lighthouse Parade Pedestrian Precinct and Road Safety Project commencing soon.