13.9 C
Byron Shire
September 27, 2021

Council takes another look at habitat destruction for bypass

Latest News

New venues of concern in Ballina

The Northern NSW Local Health District has been notified of a number of new venues of concern associated with a confirmed case of COVID-19.

Other News

Why are there so many vaccinated people in hospital?

It may be confronting to hear there are more vaccinated people than unvaccinated people in hospital – but it’s actually a good thing.


I write to express my concern with greedy landlords who seem to go by the sandpit mantra ‘they did...

Tweed Council says ‘No’ to State government taking their developer income

Tweed Shire Councillors have rejected a proposal by the NSW government, that would reduce the ability of local councils to collect infrastructure contributions from developers.

Byron Shire Councillors vote to raise CBD height

The developers of 33 Lawson Street, Byron Bay, came to last week’s Council meeting asking for permission to breach the building height limit in Central Byron by 38 per cent.

Byron Shire Councillors get behind vaccination push

Public buildings such as the Mullumbimby Civic Hall could become mass COVID-19 vaccination centres, under a proposal put forward by Byron Council last week.

Tony’s reflections as king of the Macadamia Castle

Looking back on 14 years at the Macadamia Castle, Tony Gilding says the important things to him were the conservation of the animals and the development of staff.

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

Byron Bay beach party end in PINS and a charge for biting

Police say a woman has been charged and four Penalty Infringement Notices (PINs) issued following a beach party in the Byron Bay area overnight.

Fundraising for koala signs for Bangalow

As the koala mating season has started, Bangalow Koalas has set up fundraising to create incorporate more koala road signs. Bangalow Koalas, who keep a watch...

Nuclear Submarines – just a foot in the door

In the next few months we will hear a lot about how superior nuclear-powered submarines are. Vice Admiral Mike Noonan is even claiming superior stealth characteristics – which is simply not true. Yes, they tend to be faster. This is great if you want to go thousands of kilometres in a matter of days. But they are also much more expensive.

Compost back on Lismore’s gardening menu

Lismore City Council says that their BIOCycle Compost is again on sale from the Lismore Recycling & Recovery Centre and Nimbin Transfer Station, after a two-year break.