Carnaby’s black cockatoos: residents still needling on pine plantation removal


Ken Oates is worried about planning repercussions on Carnaby’s black cockatoo habitat. Picture: Martin Kennealey           d454491
Ken Oates is worried about planning repercussions on Carnaby’s black cockatoo habitat. Picture: Martin Kennealey         d454491

THE removal of the Gnangara, Pinjar and Yanchep pine plantations under a draft State Government plan continues to cause concern about its effect on the endangered Carnaby’s black cockatoos.

Gnangara resident Ken Oates said the proposal of the ‘Perth and Peel Green Growth Plan for 3.5 million’ to clear 18,000ha of pines and replant 5000ha in Yanchep would result in a “crucial loss of food” for the cockatoos.

He was worried the population would be significantly impacted by leaving the former plantations as grassland to conserve water in the Gnangara mound system and establishing the 170,000ha of conservation reserves based on “untested woodland”.

MORE: Petition calls on State Government to protect Carnaby’s black cockatoo ‘mega roost’.

“It appears this 170,000ha conservation ‘reserve’ has been cobbled together from aerial mapping but ignoring scientific advice of the need for investigating and identifying unproductive banksia woodland, where no resource is available to the birds,” he said.

“This would have confirmed whether the reserve yielded enough food for the bird, and if not, to create a Plan B.

“I believe this is a basic requirement if their plan is seriously seeking to save the bird from extinction.”

An analysis of the plan released by the Environmental Defender’s Office WA in May, authored by its principal solicitor Patrick Pearlman and biodiversity consultant Keith Claymore, was highly critical and echoed Mr Oates’ views on the lack of investigation.

The white paper accused the Government of “flying blind”, having “sold a false bill of goods” and embarking on a “convoluted effort” to avoid complying with part IV of the WA Environmental Protection Act.

Mr Pearlman said the document purported to streamline environmental approvals and provide a comprehensive environ- mental assessment.

“It doesn’t look like it’s going to result in streamlined approvals and it doesn’t look like it’s going to be a thorough assessment of environmental impacts, at which point you begin to ask, ‘well, what is it then?’” he said.

Mr Pearlman said instead of being assessed under the Act, it appeared the plan would be recommended for approval by way of an “advice” to the minister provided by the WA Environmental Protection Authority under section 16(e).

“To our knowledge, this is the first time it has been used to pre-approve or assess broad classes of development over the course of decades,” he said. “We’re just not convinced of the legality, or the wisdom, of what the Government appears to be doing.

“It’s very difficult to identify what regime of law is going to apply to this to ensure the environment is adequately protected.”

Mr Pearlman said the paper raised fears about the effect of clearing the pine plantations on the cockatoos and the failure to consider the pines’ role in absorbing carbon dioxide.

“The sort of cavalier attitude taken towards those impacts where the State’s own population viability analysis suggested losing something like 50 per cent of the regional population of Carnaby’s and then assuring us that the impacts could be managed consistent with the Commonwealth recovery plan, that was jaw-dropping,” he said.

“It’s disturbing because the pines are being removed primarily because of their impact on water supplies, without an immediate alternative food source for the cockatoo but the State has repeatedly missed its commitment to enact comprehensive water management legislation that would better manage water in the long run.”

Environment Minister Albert Jacob did not respond to questions regarding the effect of the removal of the pines on the cockatoos and whether alternatives had been investigated.

He stood by his previous comments that conservation could not be done for one species alone and the pines were “the greatest environmental problem we have in the northern suburbs”.

“The draft plan is the largest city-focused environmental assessment ever undertaken in Australia and is one of the largest red tape reduction initiatives ever undertaken in WA, as it secures upfront federal environmental approvals,” he said.

“The draft plan looks 30 years ahead and provides certainty regarding the protection of Perth and Peel’s unique natural environment and certainty on the development required to support growth to 3.5 million people.”

Compensation still a concern

THE Property Council of Australia “cautiously welcomed” the State Government’s draft Perth and Peel Green Growth Plan for 3.5 million.

The Council’s WA executive director Lino Iacomella said the plan had “potential to overcome roadblocks to development created by confusing dual State and Federal environmental approvals processes”.

“It is a positive step in cutting red tape in the environmental approvals process and will deliver certainty for the property industry,” he said.

But Mr Iacomella said there were a number of gaps that needed to be addressed.

“Specifically, the current draft does not contain any remedy for landowners who have land taken away or rendered undevelopable by the created conservation areas,” he said.

Its submission to the Department of Premier and Cabinet recommended releasing a detailed review of options on the funding mechanism, compensation for landowners, alignment between the green growth and Perth and Peel @3.5 million plans, releasing the methodology behind the spatial mapping and introducing a mechanism to reclassify land.

“The proposed Green Growth Plan can play a key role in helping the property sector deliver sustainable growth to make Perth a more consolidated, connected and prosperous city,” he said.