Legal action to save habitat of bird facing extinction - EDO NSW

Legal action to save habitat of bird facing extinction back in court

A Hunter Valley community group’s legal challenge to save the forest habitat of a bird species on the brink of extinction,  goes back to the Land and Environment court today for a four-day hearing.

 3 February 2015

EDO NSW is acting for community group, Friends of Tumblebee, in a challenge to Cessnock City Council’s approval of a steel fabrication workshop and distribution facility in an area of forest which is habitat to the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater.

The development site contains about 3.2 hectares of habitat for the Regent Honeyeater (Anthochaera Phrygia), which will be cleared for the development. The Regent Honeyeater was elevated in 2010 from endangered to critically endangered, under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, which means it faces an ‘extremely high risk of extinction’.

A scientific paper published in the journal Australian Field Ornithology has been presented as evidence to the court. It reveals that the Hunter Economic Zone (HEZ), where the development is proposed, contains one of the most important breeding habitats left for this extremely rare bird.

Friends of Tumblebee will argue that the proposed development should have been accompanied by a Species Impact Statement (SIS) so that Council had a comprehensive understanding of the significant impacts the development would have on the Regent Honeyeater.

The case comes before the Court as the NSW Government undertakes a review of legislation designed to protect biodiversity.

“It is high time that biodiversity laws make it an offence to cause the extinction of a species and actually prevent species from being pushed to and over the brink of extinction,“ said EDO NSW Principal Solicitor Sue Higginson. “The US Endangered Species Act gives this sort of protection, to prevent extinction and related habitat destruction.”

Nationally the Regent Honeyeater is listed as endangered. The Commonwealth Department of Environment says of the bird: “The Regent Honeyeater, with its brilliant flashes of yellow embroidery, was once seen overhead in flocks of hundreds. Today the Regent Honeyeater has become a 'flagship species' for conservation in the threatened box-ironbark forests of Victoria and NSW on which it depends”. It is no longer found in South Australia and records from Queensland are now uncommon.

The case is set down for a four day hearing beginning today and ending on Friday, 6 February , in the Land and Environment Court in Sydney. This follows an earlier hearing in October last year.

 Contact: EDO NSW Jon Walter 0404 647 842