Ms O'CONNOR - I wouldn't mind first getting an update on the Eaglehawk Neck roadworks. As you know, last year at Estimates we had a conversation about some very significant Aboriginal cultural heritage near the site of the roadworks and I know that action was taken to prevent impacts on that heritage. I am interested to understand whether there was a natural values assessment of those roadworks, because Pirates Bay, which is the area of water that the roadworks pass through, is a very significant nesting shorebird habitat. Was any work undertaken, because I have since seen the works and they are quite high impact on an area that was a nesting shorebird habitat?
Mr FERGUSON - We had a pretty deep and meaningful about this one last year, and necessarily so, because of -
Ms O'CONNOR - We helped you make the right decision.
Mr FERGUSON - Well, I think you did and I appreciated that at the time, and I do now. The objective of the project is to improve the safety of the Arthur Highway at Eaglehawk Neck by improving the width of the pavement and providing for turning facilities at Blowhole Road. The project was tendered in 2019 and subsequently awarded to Shore Contracts. Prior to construction, Aboriginal community groups raised concern regarding the impact the project would have on the cultural heritage values of the area. After meeting with the Aboriginal community the department agree to delay construction and revisit the design with a view to reducing the impact to the cultural heritage values of the area, and that is also a commitment that I made to you I think at our last Estimates as well.
Ms O'CONNOR - Yes.
Mr FERGUSON - I assured you that we would not proceed with that project until those concerns had been honestly and respectfully resolved. The project team investigated alternative design options and prepared a concept plan for redesign to avoid encroachment into cultural heritage areas. The highway design was realigned to the west further into Eaglehawk Bay. To lessen the impact to the bay, the formation had to be marginally reduced as well.
Ms O'CONNOR - Do you want to address the question?
Mr FERGUSON - I am about to. The redesign achieves protection of the cultural heritage of the area without compromising safety. A second round of stakeholder consultation was completed in August last year on the redesign without objection.
In relation to the natural heritage values you have raised with me, I am advised that the Parks and Wildlife Service approved the reserve activity assessment late last year.
Ms O'CONNOR - After the work had begun?
Mr FERGUSON - The work actually commenced in February this year, so after that RAA was done, as I would think would be the only way you could go. If there are any further questions on that in relation to the reserve activity assessment I'm probably not the right person to ask, but that's my advice.
Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you, it's up to you, minister, but I know Ms McIntyre has worked on this project. I'm interested in understanding what the Parks and Wildlife Service advice was about impacts on nesting shorebirds and what steps were taken to mitigate any impacts, given the scale of the encroachment onto their habitat?
Mr FERGUSON - I am happy for Ms McIntyre to respond if she is comfortable and able to do that, but what the Parks and Wildlife Service assessed or would have to say about that wouldn't be something that anybody here will be able to represent.
Ms O'CONNOR - If it's advice to the department they would.
Mr FERGUSON - I'm comfortable discussing the actual redesign and how we have adapted it in those circumstances - that's fine.
Ms McINTYRE - I don't have the absolute detail of Parks' approval; however, the department worked closely with Parks to reduce the design to reduce the impact on all natural values as far as possible, while at the same time creating a road that was able to withstand some of the climate change impacts.
Ms O'CONNOR - Can I ask whether any nesting sites had to be destroyed as a result of the works?
Mr FERGUSON - I don't have that information.
Ms McINTYRE - I don't believe so.
Ms O'CONNOR - How would we know? How do we find that information out?
Mr FERGUSON - I'd recommend that because it specifically goes to nature conservation matters and the Parks and Wildlife Service's role in assessing RAAs, I honestly think that's the only place you would get that level of detail.
Ms O'CONNOR - Except the work was done and project-managed by your agency, which obviously sought advice from Parks, therefore it is reasonable to ask what that advice was and whether or not those roadworks led to a further loss of shorebird habitat.
Mr FERGUSON - I simply don't have that information.
Ms O'CONNOR - Well, you should have that information.
Mr EVANS - We don't have that information here. Obviously, as Ms McIntyre said, we engage closely with the Parks and Wildlife Service in working through the reserve activity assessments but the detail of that is something we would need to come back with. However, as the Deputy Premier said, the Minister for Parks would be able to provide that information.
Ms O'CONNOR - Can I please put on notice the question about whether or not it was necessary as a consequence of the construction to remove any nesting shorebird habitat or nests, because obviously you removed habitat but the question is whether or not nests were removed?
Mr FERGUSON - I would be happy to take that on notice.
Ms O'CONNOR - Thank you.
Mr FERGUSON - I hope you appreciate that a lot of great people have worked very hard to find a fair and reasonable healthy balance and a solution here to some what appeared at first to be quite intractable problems.
Ms O'CONNOR - I do.
Mr FERGUSON - I take the opportunity to commend my department and the officers involved and no doubt as well as that the Aboriginal community and the Parks and Wildlife Service who together have given us a solution. I'll take the question on notice in relation to impact on nesting sites.
CHAIR - Thank you, minister. If you could put that in writing, Ms O'Connor.
Ms O'CONNOR - I'm just doing that now, thank you, Chair.