Imagine you are Australia’s Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek. You take office with the aim of ending the extinction crisis, and now you find yourself allowing developments to proceed that will threaten habitat for endangered species.
In June 2023, the Minister confirmed conditional approval for Defence Housing Australia’s plans to bulldoze bushland at Lee Point in Darwin, despite a sustained campaign from groups such as Friends of Lee Point and Environment Centre NT.
On behalf of our client, the Environment Centre NT, we wrote to the Minister last year seeking immediate intervention to halt work at Lee Point after the discovery of large numbers of Gouldian Finches in the area.
The local community, bird watchers and tourists were overjoyed to spot the birds at Lee Point, because Gouldian Finches were only just starting to bounce back after being pushed close to extinction.
Now the Minister has announced the development can proceed with variations to the original approval conditions. Despite acknowledging there would be “significant” impacts to the Gouldian finch population, the Minister was satisfied the conditions would mitigate, manage or otherwise compensate for the impact.
We know that land clearing is pushing Australia’s plants and animals to brink. In the past four years alone, land clearing approvals in the Northern Territory increased by around 300%.
This decision shows our nature laws are broken. What’s worse, the Northern Territory is the only jurisdiction in the country without specific native vegetation laws or an overarching biodiversity conservation strategy to protect ecosystems already collapsing.
The NT Government should be looking at alternative sites for this development, not destroying the habitat of an endangered species.