Jan Barham, Broken Head
The wetland destruction for the bypass construction is completed, and 140 critically endangered snails were discovered in the works’ footprint.
Byron Shire Council’s bypass application stated that the site ‘does not contain a known population of Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail’, and that the impact would only be ‘on a very small area of marginal habitat’, and that ‘the proposal would not affect the life cycle of the species, such that a viable population is likely to be placed at risk of extinction’. This was the information presented to the community, the state government, the courts, and the approval authority, the Northern Regional Planning Panel.
The discovery of the large number of specimens in the bypass footprint also indicates the potential for a larger population in the surrounding wetland. It also clarifies that the studies undertaken to assess the presence of the Mitchell’s Rainforest Snail were inadequate, and that the ignored requests for further independent studies prior to issuing contracts may have avoided the destruction.
It’s highly unlikely that approvals would have been issued by the Planning Panel, the NSW Office of Environment, the Land and Environment Court, and the Federal Department of Environment, if a known population had been identified.
The snails have been relocated to an area that Council has designated for future development and destruction, calling into question the Council’s commitment to protecting biodiversity.
The Federal Environment Department acknowledges the risks of relocation and that survival is unlikely. They state ‘the removal of individuals of a species from a site would usually be treated as the complete loss of the individuals, that is, the likely level of impact should be treated as the same as if the individuals had been destroyed’.
Once upon a time the discovery of a colony of a Nationally Critically Endangered species would have been cause for celebration, and would have initiated tangible efforts for protection. A Draft Biodiversity Conservation Strategy is currently on exhibition, and Council should be reminded that actions speak louder than words – this action is shameful. Byron deserves better.