Vancouver survey call

By Chris Thomson | posted on July 20, 2018

CRITICALLY endangered possums, carnivorous plants known only to occur three places on Earth, and foraging habitat of endangered cockatoos should trigger flora and fauna surveys lest a tourist resort planned for Albany’s Goode Beach breach State and Federal environment laws, an eminent biology professor says.

University of Western Australia Professor of Biodiversity Stephen Hopper said that, contrary to a report produced for the owner of the Lot 660 development site beside
Lake Vancouver, banksia bushes, with seeds often eaten by endangered Carnaby’s cockatoos, were present on the block.

“I have made regular observations of black cockatoos feeding on Banksia sessilis, the parrot bush, on Lot 660 and nearby,” Professor Hopper said on Monday.

“Consultants have said there is no banksia on the site.

“That may be because they were relying on the 1992 flora survey of Lot 660 and its predecessor at which time this plant was called Dryandra sessilis.”

Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act states that if foraging habitat of an endangered species is to be destroyed by a project, the plans
must be referred for consideration by Federal authorities.

A structure plan for the resort recommended for endorsement by Albany’s City councillors this coming Tuesday, ahead of consideration by the WA Planning Commission, does not recommend referral to the Commonwealth.

“The second thing is that the cockatoos themselves have been observed perching on the site, and this relates to the statement attached to the proponent’s report for the project that there is no substantial food foraging habitat on the site to be cleared for the buildings,” Professor Hopper added.

“I noticed that on the coastal reserve, just in front of where the major building is going to be, walking through very low peppermints last Saturday, that something had been stripping the bark off these arm-thickness branches of peppies and exposing the burrows of woodboring beetle larvae, witchetty grub sort of animals, finger diameter and rich in protein.

“I inferred that the only animal capable of ripping the bark off and chewing through the wood to get at these burrows made by the woodboring beetle larvae would be black cockatoos.

“And yesterday, my wife and I in returning from our daily walk to the beach saw just near our house 25 black cockatoos from 10m away and we stood there for five or 10
minutes. They were ripping the bark off and going for beetle grubs in what turned out to be these significant burrows through the wood on peppermint trees.”
Professor and Chris Hopper live 100m south of Lot 660.

“What we can draw from all this is that we know for sure that a listed threatened species of black cockatoo is in Goode Beach and on Lot 660,” Professor Hopper said.

“It strikes me that the planners have recommended to councillors there’s no listed species, and hence, there’s no need for any further fauna surveys on Lot 660.

“A survey for that foraging habitat is absolutely essential to come up with a sensible evaluation as to whether clearing of the lot for the development would have a significant impact on this population of Carnaby’s cockatoo.”

Environmental consultants for Lot 660 owner, Perth paediatrician Cherry Martin, saw a critically endangered Western ringtail possum on the block along the route of the proposed access road.

“And that to me triggers a need for a comprehensive survey for ringtail possums,” Professor Hopper said.

Importantly, he said that in 2013 a local consultant botanist collected a rare pygmy sundew at Lot 660.

“They’re quite tiny plants, carnivorous, that feed on insects and the like with stickiness on their leaves,” he said.

“It’s a species that was collected by Robert Brown on Matthew Flinders’ 1801-02 expedition.”

Brown collected the little plant either at Lake Vancouver where it is only known to occur in a 20sqm patch on and beside the access road, or in Little Grove where its only other two known locations are.

“They’d bulldoze it out of existence at Lake Vancouver,” Professor Hopper said of the current resort plans.

“At the moment, the precautionary principle would say: ‘Don’t mess with this precariously rare plant, as we presently know it’.”

He said he would soon recommend to councillors and others that urgent and comprehensive fauna and flora surveys be done for Lot 660 ahead of possible listing of the sundew as a threatened species, and referral of the block to the State and

Commonwealth for consideration of impacts on the possum and black cockatoo.

In a recent submission on the project, the WA Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions said it could not comment on the resort’s impact on vegetation because a current flora survey was not conducted.

“The new evidence that’s just been obtained with relatively little effort by admittedly quite experienced people just raises alarm bells that this site is even more significant than previously appreciated,” Professor Hopper told The Weekender.