The Western Australian government gave the green light to multiple land clearing projects that destroyed significant habitat of the Greater bilby, a threatened species, before WA government-funded due diligence was completed, documents have revealed.
Government documents obtained by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) under Freedom of Information show the due diligence surveys found all the properties seeking to clear native vegetation in the La Grange region near Broome had Greater bilby populations.
In fact, one of the properties was home to the largest naturally occurring population of Greater bilbies ever recorded-but by the time the due diligence report was completed, a permit had already been granted for the destruction of 120 hectares of habitat at the site.
“These documents reveal a disgraceful episode where commercial interests were put ahead of the future of a unique and much-loved Australian animal,” said ACF’s nature program manager Basha Stasak.
“The greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis) is listed as a threatened and vulnerable species under WA and Commonwealth legislation. Over the last 200 years its habitat has been dramatically reduced, mostly by land clearing to make way for agriculture and mines.
“Sadly, Australia is a world leader in mammal extinctions. We don’t want the greater bilby to join the list of extinct Australian animals.”
The federal government is considering a fast-tracked bilateral agreement with the WA government that would accredit state approval processes under the national environment law, allowing proposed projects to be assessed only under state arrangements.
“Since Australia’s national environment law, the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, took effect 20 years ago, an area of threatened species habitat the size of Tasmania has been logged, cleared and bulldozed,” Ms Stasak said.
“This sad example demonstrates again how handing national environmental approval powers to state governments would substantially weaken nature protection in Australia.”
A recent report by the Environmental Defenders Office identified 30 examples where state and territory laws failed to meet national benchmarks.
Header pic by Julian Bentley