NSW Opposition calls for halt on winter bushland clearing for coal mine

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Thursday, 29 May 2014

Shadow Minister for the Environment Luke Foley today called on Environment Minister Rob Stokes to stop the winter clearing of Leard State Forest to limit the damage to local wildlife entering their hibernation period.

The Leard State Forest is home to 31 threatened species and contains a large and significant proportion of critically threatened vegetation types.

Nearly 5,000 acres of native bushland is being cleared by Whitehaven Coal to make way for the Maules Creek Coal Mine.

As part of the standard conditions for clearing land for coal mines, clearing is prohibited during the colder months. This was one of the key arguments made by the company, Whitehaven Coal, for why threatened wildlife would survive the large scale habitat removal.

“Less than 10 days ago the NSW Government lifted the restriction on clearing over winter months at Maules Creek and it will resume in June,” said Luke Foley.

“Many animals, including bats, gliders and reptiles slow right down or hibernate during the winter. This makes them less able to respond to the destruction of their habitat and yet Minister Stokes has signed off on allowing the bulldozers in as early as next month.

“If the removal of native bushland and the habitat of local species are required for a development then it should be done at a time when they have the best chance to relocate and to survive – that right time is the warmer months of the year.

“With over seventy species of hibernating reptiles and frogs, bats and small marsupials that are sheltering in the hollow trees and logs, this reckless move threatens to greatly increase wildlife fatalities and injuries.

“In a human context what the Liberals are allowing Whitehaven Coal to do would be the equivalent of a bulldozer coming through your front door when you are asleep in the middle of the night – the best chance to avoid injury and fatality is when you are alert and active. That’s what a ban on winter clearing provides for wildlife.

“Here’s a good early test for the new Environment Minister. Mr Stokes needs to apply common sense and insist that clearing of this bushland be done when the local species have the best chance to survive the removal of their habitats.

“The Minister should at least insist that Whitehaven Coal stick to the rules that it has cited as justification for its plan to clear 5,000 acres of bushland.”