The exploratory drilling that was set to commence this week at the Westbury Reserve on the proposed northern prison site should never have been signed off by Environment Minister, Roger Jaensch. It is within range of a Wedge-tailed eagle nest, during breeding season.
Noise disturbance during breeding can result in eagles abandoning eggs or even chicks, and can drive them from a nest permanently. The State Government was forced to halt the planned drilling after advice that federal environmental protections could apply.
When questioned in Parliament today about whether the government had undertaken any assessment of the site before signing off on drilling, Minister Jaensch evaded answering.
Minister Jaensch refused to answer serious questions about what, if any, assessment on the impact on eagles – or any other species – had been undertaken. His ducking and weaving won’t wash with Westbury residents and bird lovers.
Mr Jaensch also refused to commit to referring the prison development to the Federal Government for assessment under the protections of the EPBC Act.
It is unacceptable that government-sanctioned works are adding to the many other risks faced by endangered Wedge-tailed eagles. Tasmanians are right to distrust this Minister.
There are fewer than 1000 eagles in Tasmania, and to prevent them heading to extinction the government has to take a precautionary approach.
It is critical we do everything possible to help this iconic Tasmanian bird survive. Despite this, Minister Jaensch appears to have abandoned his responsibility for protecting this beautiful endangered species.