Classic story of wildlife conservation versus destruction of habitat for commercial reasons in Australia

Golden-shouldered parrot under threat from Mr Harris's plans

NEWS AND COMMENT: This story from Australia highlights the battle between the conservation of native wild species on that continent and commerce which often wants to destroy the habitat of the species in order to commercialise property which in this instance is 2,000 ha of native vegetation on Queensland’s Cape York.

Golden-shouldered parrot under threat from Mr Harris's plans

Golden-shouldered parrot under threat from Mr Harris’s plans. Photo: Wikipedia: originally posted to Flickr as ‘Pretty bird’.

This huge parcel of land called the Kingvale station is owned by Scott Harris. He wants to clear the land in order to grow crops. His objectives have clashed with environmental campaigners and the environment minister, Sussan Ley (the spelling is correct).

His land contains a eucalypt forest and melaleuca swamps and this area is adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef so it is envisaged by conservationists that pesticides and other chemicals sprayed onto the crops would quite possibly end up polluting the Great Barrier Reef.

Mr Harris’s plan threatened the survivability of five species of Australian wild animal namely: the bare-rumped sheathtail bat, northern quoll, golden-shouldered parrot, antbed parrot moth and red goshawk.

Ley had initially approved the plan with conditions such as creating an “offset area” together with a management plan to improve the habitat in the offset area, as I understand it. I believe this to be an area designed to accommodate the wild species mentioned after the destruction of their habitat. Harris disagreed with the condition and he wouldn’t pay for surveys to assess the impact on wildlife of his plan.

Apparently it is unusual for Australia’s administrators to disagree with the commercialisation of the landscape on the basis that it has happened quite rarely. The power to do so under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 2000 has been used sparingly at 24 times.

Mr Harris’s plan had been granted a permit by the Queensland government in 2014 but the plan was referred to the federal government to assess the environmental impact.

It seems to me that the basic government stance was that Mr Harris could proceed with conditions but he didn’t take up the offer despite a lot of correspondence. Conservationists disagree entirely with the acceptance of the plan, in principle. They say it should be entirely rejected because, “Any system that would have allowed the destruction of mature habitat for endangered species will continue to lock in the loss of those species. Our federal environment laws need to be strengthened so that old growth and important forest for endangered species like the golden-shouldered parrot are off limits for destruction.”

The quote comes from Gemma Plesman, a senior campaigner at the Wilderness Society. She said that there were fewer than 1,500 golden-shouldered parrots left in the wild and the Kingsvale station contained habitat which was suited to this bird.

As mentioned, this is a classic case of commercialisation of the landscape versus its conservation to protect the lives of wild animals that live within it. It happens a lot all over the planet. Australians are very proud of their native wild species. They suffered tremendous wild fires causing devastating loss to some of their native species.

Australia contributes to global warming by selling coal to China although in a dispute between Australia and China exports of coal have been greatly diminished. Global warming is damaging Australian’s Great Barrier Reef. Australia is implicated in damaging their own environment and therefore perhaps this decision by Ley reflects the need to change course and adjust the balance between commercialising the landscape and protecting it in favour of the latter.