‘It’s hard to get your head around the review, as it is supposed to assist the environment by letting developers know where and where not they can build,’ Friends of Underwood Avenue Bushland spokeswoman Margaret Owen said.
In April, the Birdlife WA-backed Sixth Great Cocky Count used 600 counters to record the birds at 290 South-West sites, and found the University of WA-owned 33ha Underwood Avenue site in Shenton Park had 159 Carnaby’s, with 114 at nearby Hollywood Hospital, out of an estimated 6671 on the Swan Coastal Plain, the bird’s WA stronghold.
A 15 per cent annual drop in Carnaby’s overall numbers in the past six years caused the counters to warn that the species could be extinct on the plain in the next 15 to 20 years if prime habitat sites such as Underwood Avenue, the hospital and the Gnangara Pine Plantation were not protected.
Mrs Owen said the intelligent birds now relied on the site’s pine nuts, after their natural banksia woodland had been used for development but the university’s plans to use about half of its Underwood Avenue land for housing still needed Canberra’s approval.
Protecting Carnaby’s is one of the issues being considered by Canberra’s Strategic Assessment of the Perth and Peel Regions, covering 900,000ha, which is now managed by the State Government’s Department of Premier and Cabinet.
A department representative recently told a WA Local Government Association zone meeting in Mosman Park that federal and state planning on the plain had been ‘piecemeal’.
She said the assessment would consider the birds’ plight, the effect of fertiliser run-off on estuaries and fragmented native vegetation and could also allow ‘steamlining’ of laws so that development proponents do not need Canberra’s nod.
WA Environment Minister Albert Jacobs said the Carnaby’s decline could also be attributed to drought, car strikes and pine clearing.