In October, at NSW’s Local Government Annual Conference, a motion calling for better protection of wildlife on development sites was passed unanimously. The government now has to agree to implement standards to ensure that native wildlife found on development sites are given a chance of survival. We have standards for occupational health and safety, contamination and waste management so why not caring for wildlife?
Currently an approved Fauna Management Plan is required before a development can proceed but the quality can vary. The plan explains how wildlife that is found should be handled. They are dependent on the experience of the ecologist writing the report along with the developer expectations.
Poor plans are becoming more prevalent as there is more development of greenfield sites and densification of suburbs with canopy cover and flora and fauna corridors. Some plans even provide for injured animals to be euthanised on site. Often wildlife carers have to perform rescues as animals try to escape or are injured.
It all started at the Mirvac site in West Pennant Hills and the fact that they were removing thousands of trees but the planning documents had very few provisions made for protecting the wildlife living in them. There were no requirements to check whether nests, hollows or burrows were occupied and then relocate the birds, possums, echidnas or wombats. It’s the same across all development sites and yet wildlife carers have to follow very stringent codes of practice for any of their interactions with wildlife. Plus all native wildlife in NSW is protected by law – so the question asked by the local community was, where are these protections? And what is happening that they are not being applied?
The issue was raised by some local Hills Shire councillors but the proposal for a motion was defeated by the liberal-dominated council. So the group turned to Hornsby Council. After much discussion between many councillors, community members, journalists, vets, wildlife carers and a lot of persistence Hornsby Council councillors agreed to present this motion before the conference in August.
As Cr Salitra said in presenting her motion to Hornsby Council:
Legislating standards for wildlife on development sites will provide certainty for all stakeholders – the developer, ecologists, tradespeople, wildlife carers and our community. Certainty in procedure will provide clarity on who and what these standards apply to for all stakeholders in a currently grey area. And they will result in more efficiency on development sites, where these repeatable actions become the norm.
Why has it taken so long to implement these standards?