Protecting endangered Gouldian Finches in Lee Point from habitat-destroying developers

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek has confirmed Lee Point is habitat for threatened Gouldian Finches – creating an uncertain future for Defence Housing Australia’s approved plans to bulldoze the bushland area.

This is a promising win for community and legal groups, who have run a sustained campaign to protect habitat for the endangered birds.

But Gouldian Finches aren’t out of the woods yet.

What’s happening at Lee Point?

Defence Housing Australia previously received approval to bulldoze bushland at Lee Point in Darwin to construct a defence housing development.

In DHA’s environmental impact assessment, they concluded the area was ‘unlikely’ to be habitat for Gouldian Finches.

But local conservationists argued otherwise after spotting “more than 100″ of the birds in the bushland DHA had approval to clear. This is significant – numbers of Gouldian Finches are just starting to bounce back after they were pushed close to extinction.

This marked the beginning of a grassroots campaign to halt destruction of the birds’ territory, led by local groups such as Friends of Lee Point and Environment Centre NT.

What does the Minister’s announcement mean?

For the time being, the ABC is reporting that the Minister has halted plans to bulldoze Gouldian Finch habitat at Lee Point.

The Minister is currently working with her department and DHA to go through scientific evidence, with a view to DHA agreeing to a voluntary variation to their approval.

Until we find out more, we can’t know that the bulldozing won’t go ahead, or that the finches’ habitat is safe.

However, the announcement is a promising step, that comes after ongoing campaigning to protect their habitat from grassroots conservation groups, citizen scientists, community members and large organisations.

EJA has had a part in the campaign, too. Last year, we assisted the Environment Centre of the NT (ECNT) to request the Federal Environment Minister revoke or suspend the approval for DHA to clear savanna woodland at Lee Point.

What happens next?

The environment minister has said her department is working with DHA to ensure better protections for the Gouldian Finches, but we don’t know the details. Minister Plibersek will make a further announcement about DHA’s development plans, although we don’t know when this will be.

Our work to ensure ongoing, permanent protection for Gouldian Finches at Lee Point is not over yet.

But whatever happens next, our message is clear: our Environment Minister must put threatened animals and their habitat first, not let developers bulldoze their habitat.