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Tasmanian Devil Deaths

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 23 March 2021

Tags: Tasmanian Devil, Westbury

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, the other day I received some very concerning news from residents in the Westbury area. The Concerned Residents Opposed to the Westbury Prison Site has posted a very disturbing picture of a juvenile Tasmanian devil that has been run over by a car, right outside the Brushy Rivulet Reserve - the Westbury Reserve, as it is known - the place where the Government is proposing to put an industrial prison on that site.

It is more evidence than we need that this is the wrong place to have a prison. It is the wrong place for so many environmental values that are present there, especially and including the Tasmanian devil. Tasmanian devils are endangered under the Commonwealth legislation and thousands and thousands of Tasmanians have spent years fundraising to do everything they can to save the devil from the facial tumour disease which has devastated the population to the extent that at least 80 per cent of devils have disappeared.

It is an incredibly important top predator in Tasmania and the Liberals in government have invested millions of dollars to protect this endangered species, as they should, but now instead they will do everything they can to ignore the reality of the environmental values of Westbury Reserve and have chosen to put their failed experiment for a northern prison at the site.

This is the worst place not only for the devil and the dens that exist on Westbury Reserve and the evidence the community has collected from audiovisual night cameras of the existence of devils near and around Brushy Rivulet make it really clear that devils live in and around that rivulet area. The dens are obviously being visited from time to time and the existence of juvenile devils makes it really clear that there has been a young family of devils and they are roaming around the area. There should not only be no prison on that site but there should be speed limits posted on that road so that people can be aware with signage that they need to slow down at night to protect these endangered animals.

The wonderful Sarah Lloyd, who is an Order of Australia medal recipient and a great naturalist, has been steadily documenting the environmental values of this site and collecting together information from other naturalists. These details are loaded into the Natural Values Atlas that Westbury Reserve is the home of not just one but four top-order Tasmanian predators. As well as the Tasmanian devil, a wedge-tailed eagle nest has been found on the boundary of the Brushy Rivulet Reserve and has been there since 2007. That has caused, as it should, a standstill to aspects of the planning application because it must go to federal assessment when there is an eagle nest. We will continue to make sure that the federal minister is aware of the values that are special about Westbury Reserve and of the importance of keeping these beautiful eagles with us in Tasmania. There are so few that remain. Local farmers see these eagles circling around their properties so it is certainly clear that there are eagles right next to that reserve.

There is also in the Brushy Rivulet Reserve the Tasmanian masked owl which is endangered under federal legislation. A nest and a roost tree were found at the reserve in October last year and several pellets have been found at the reserve during recent outings, also recorder on the Natural Values Atlas. Masked owls have a permanent home range of about 2000 hectares and that is why this area is such an important place for them to be protected. The grey goshawk is also endangered. An active goshawk nest was found on 20 January this year. We have the green and gold frog which is listed as vulnerable under federal law and that was observed on 5 July last year.

The information from the Tasmanian devil captures scats as well as dens on the southern boundary of the reserve and it is pretty clear that if we care about the long-term survival of Tasmanian devils we have to take every opportunity for habitat such as the Brushy Rivulet Reserve which is one of the few remnant areas of vegetation that are left in the region because it has been steadily fragmented over decades by grazing and weeds, particularly gorse. There are plenty of farmers surrounding Brushy Rivulet reserve, along with the locals of Westbury, who are determined to keep this beautiful place intact and the natural values there. They understand, as well as the crazy cost of this northern prison, the disastrous location on a road that is very substandard and windy and how totally inappropriate it is to have a prison built for 270 inmates and all the staff. The vehicle movements every day on that road would be an unbelievable increase on such a windy and inappropriate road. There is absolutely no reason for this to go ahead and the community will continue to defend it and we will stand with them.