Dr WOODRUFF question to MINISTER for ENVIRONMENT and PARKS, Mr JAENSCH
You are responsible for ensuring the state protects all species and especially critically endangered ones. Department of State Growth contractors have blocked the nesting hollows needed by critically endangered swift parrots in six large old blue gums south of St Helens. They are acting in anticipation of a road widening, but do not yet have development approval. A department email confirms the protocol of covering tree hollows before construction because it -
Reduces the risk of breeding disturbance during later stages of the project.
To be clear, the disturbance this project would involve is the destruction of critical and increasingly rare habitat. Every tree-hollow matters. Under your dystopian administration, blocking the hollows that critically endangered birds need to breed and survive, is considered a conservation measure.
Do you accept that blocking hollows to prevent nesting, instead of actively killing the birds when their nesting trees are logged for development, is nonetheless an effective death of the critically endangered swift parrot by a thousand cuts? Have you sought advice about whether the removal of necessary habitat, such as these nesting hollows, is a crime under the Threatened Species Protection Act, and if it is not, will you step in, save this habitat and remove this legislative loophole?
Madam Speaker, I thank Dr Woodruff for her question.
Ms O'Connor - Is that from the Tourism Industry Council, the brief you have in front of you?
Mr JAENSCH - It is comedy hour. The Department of State Growth has, I am advised, undertaken some initial tree treatment works in preparation for the proposed upgrades to the Tasman Highway between Basin Creek and St Helens. I understand that initial ecological assessment of the site identified the presence of potential breeding habitat for swift parrots within the project area. To minimise the risk of possible breeding disturbance, tree hollows have been covered in a small number of trees, based on specialist advice from ecological consultants.
I am advised that covering tree hollows is a common pre-construction practice that presents considerable conservation benefits as it reduces the risk of breeding disturbance during later stage to the process. The department has taken this proactive approach to minimise the risk of disturbance during breeding. Only a limited number of trees identified for removal during construction have been treated in this way. The trees and hollows were inspected and assessed by an ecologist before the hollows were covered. I am advised that no -
Dr Woodruff - Come on, stop using euphemisms.
Madam SPEAKER - Order.
Mr JAENSCH - I am advised that no fauna was present in any of the hollows and that many of the hollows were considered potentially unsuitable for nesting based on their size.
Dr Woodruff - Rubbish, that is not what we understand.
Madam SPEAKER - Order.
Mr JAENSCH - A Development Application for proposed upgrades is currently with Break O Day Council. However -
Dr WOODRUFF - Point of order, Madam Speaker. My question was relating to the Threatened Species Act -
Madam SPEAKER - Which point of order?
Dr WOODRUFF - Standing Order 45, relevance. The minister has not addressed the question. There appears to be a legislative loophole that is preventing him from acting to protect the threatened species. We want to know whether he is going to assess it and fix it.
Madam SPEAKER - That is not a point of order but I have allowed it on Hansard, so there you go. Minister, if you could address that.
Mr JAENSCH - The DA is currently with the Break O'Day Council. To ensure there is no impact on the parrots during the breeding season the department has been proactive in this case.
Dr Woodruff - It has not been approved. Why are they doing this when it has not been approved?
Madam SPEAKER - Order, Dr Woodruff.
Mr JAENSCH - The department is committed to carefully managing any environmental impact of delivering infrastructure improvements and has conducted these activities in accordance with all relevant planning schemes and all relevant legislation.
Madam Speaker, I need to make the point for anyone who is listening to this: this is not about preventing swift parrots breeding. It is about getting in before the breeding season, closing off some possible breeding sites that they may have started to build their nests in, and diverting them to other ones, so they can breed away from areas that are going to be disturbed.
This is our Government following good process yet again and taking proactive action to ensure that these threatened birds can find themselves a safe breeding place this season.