Press Release - June 16, 2023

Iconic Gouldian Finch at risk from land clearing

16 June 2023

Australia’s Environment Minister will allow land clearing by Defence Housing Australia to proceed at Lee Point in Darwin, despite the risks the development poses to one of Australia’s most beautiful birds.

Represented by lawyers from Environmental Justice Australia, the Environment Centre NT (ECNT) had written to the Federal Minister for Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek MP, seeking immediate intervention to halt work at Lee Point after the discovery of large numbers of Gouldian Finches in the area.

Minister Plibersek has responded by acknowledging the urban development will have a ‘significant’ impact on the popular but endangered bird, but said she is satisfied the development can proceed with variations to its approval conditions.

The news has outraged environmentalists, given Australia’s terrible record on extinctions.

Last year as bulldozer’s descended, flocks of Gouldian Finches were spotted at Lee Point. The miraculous arrival of the rainbow-coloured bird thrilled the Darwin Community, and an influx of global bird watchers ground the land clearing plans to a halt.

ECNT Savanna and Freshwater Campaigner, Jess Black said:

“Minister Plibersek came to office with a mandate to end the extinction crisis, so this decision is heartbreaking to Lee Point and Bird lovers alike. This decision does not prevent the degradation of our already collapsing ecosystems nor does it protect the increasingly rare green spaces that enliven our cities.

The Minister needs to step up and stop the destruction of Gouldian finch habitat at Lee Point.

Land clearing is rampant across the Territory and we’re seeing the collapse of tropical savanna ecosystems before our eyes.

Gouldian Finches were spotted by local bird watchers at Lee Point just last weekend, which is significant given there are just 2,500 of these iconic birds left in the wild in northern Australia.”

Environmental Justice Australia Senior Specialist Lawyer Ellen Maybery said:

“Our client is devastated by the Minister’s response to the obvious risks this development poses to Gouldian Finch habitat.

As Australia’s Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek should use her powers to protect our natural wonders.

It’s illogical for the Minister to say she wants to end extinctions and yet allow bulldozers to destroy this precious habitat.”

For media enquiries, please call or email Jem Wilson on (03) 8341 3110 or [email protected]