I refer to the sightings of a critically endangered species of night parrot and the active presence of endangered bilbies in the Fortescue marsh, a nationally important wetlands area.
(1) Given that the area of this habitat is a planned conservation area, what monitoring has the minister’s department undertaken since the discovery of the critically endangered and endangered species; and has this monitoring shown that the required management programs have been complied with, including the obligations of all relevant legislation, in particular the Wildlife Conservation Act 1950, the Wildlife Conservation (Specially Protected Fauna) Notice 2005, the Japan-Australia Migratory Bird Agreement and the commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999?
(2) What action will the minister take to rectify any breach that has occurred and when will this action be taken?
(3) When did the minister advise the federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage or his department of the findings of the critically endangered night parrots near Minga Well and the endangered greater bilbies in this national wetlands area?
(4) Given the findings of these critically endangered species and endangered species, when did the minister recommend to the federal Minister for the Environment and Heritage and/or his department that these areas should be identified and protected under the Ramsar provisions, given the likelihood of bird migration to the nationally recognised Fortescue marsh wetlands?
(5) Is the minister aware that the Fortescue Metals Group is seeking ministerial permission to develop a mining trial pit for its Cloud Break project in the Fortescue marsh wetlands in the area proposed by the Department of Conservation and Land Management to be a conservation reserve, and is further proposing to mine this very significant area as part of its Cloud Break project?
Hon LJILJANNA RAVLICH replied:
I thank the member for some notice of this question. The Minister for the Environment has provided a rather lengthy response. I seek leave to have the answer incorporated into Hansard.
The following material was incorporated -
I thank the Hon. Member for some notice of this question. The Minister for the Environment; Science has provided the following response:
1. The Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) assisted consultants for Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) in a follow up survey of the Fortescue Marsh area in May 2005 following the reported sighting of night parrots in April 2005. This survey was unsuccessful in finding any conclusive evidence of the species. CALM is proposing further surveys in the future. FMG has proposed specific management plans for the night parrot and bilby in the public environmental review for the Cloud Break iron ore mine proposal. This proposal is currently subject to environmental review under the Environmental Protection Act 1986 with the public comment period having closed on 24 October 2005. As such, the proposed management plans are currently being reviewed.
2. The management plans are yet to enter into operation and their adoption will be a matter for determination through the environmental review process. CALM is not aware of any breach of WA’s wildlife conservation legislation.
3. The Minister has not formally advised the Federal Minister of these matters, however they have been formally brought to the Commonwealth’s attention in the environmental review process.
4. The environmental values of the Fortescue Marsh are already recognised by the Commonwealth with the marsh recognised as a wetland of national importance. As there is yet no proof of the presence of night parrots in the area additional habitat value associated with such a find cannot yet be established. The Japan Australia Migratory Bird Agreement is principally in place for cooperative protection of birds migrating between the two countries but also provides for the recognition in both countries of threatened bird species.
5. Yes, there is a proposal for trial mining. It is not within the normally inundated area of Fortescue Marsh but is to the north of that area within the Cloud Break area proposed for future mining. The Notice of Intent was sent by the Department of Industry and Resources (DoIR) to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) for information and comment.
The EPA noted that various management actions were proposed to minimise environmental impacts. In addition the EPA stated that it was prepared to treat the Notice of Intent as information concerning preliminary work as per section 41A(3) of the Environmental Protection Act 1986 provided that DoIR imposed a rehabilitation condition on the trial mining requiring that all remaining material after ore sampling be replaced in the pit, unless mining at the site was approved and commenced within three years of the trial mining.
On this understanding the EPA advised that it was prepared to allow DoIR to progress the application for trial mining.