Minister Under Fire for Biodiversity Offsets in Coffs Harbour

Australian Greens

Minister for Regional Transport’s unlawful application of biodiversity offsets threatens to destroy ancient and unique critically endangered species near Coffs Harbour. The route selection for the Coffs Harbour Pacific Highway Bypass is under intense scrutiny following revelations that expert advice was changed or ignored to avoid certain agribusiness properties and instead destroy three areas of critically endangered species.

Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, Sam Farraway, must stop and explain and release the reports and documentation that resulted in the decision to change the route from avoiding the critically endangered environments, to destroying them and unlawfully applying biodiversity offsets for ecological communities and species that are on the verge of extinction.

Greens MP and spokesperson for the environment, Sue Higginson, said “The Minister for Regional Roads needs to immediately halt this bypass construction. The discovery of two previously unknown, and now formally recognised as critically endangered, species and the rare and endangered rainforest remnant stand known as Grandpa’s Scrub, during the environmental investigations for the Coffs Harbour Bypass should have guaranteed that these areas would not be destroyed for this road “.

“The areas that have been chosen as biodiversity offsets for the new route are completely inappropriate and share none of the characteristics of the area set to be destroyed. The minimum requirement of like-for-like biodiversity offsets for critically endangered species and ecological communities has been completely ignored precisely because there is no other area that shares the unique ecology of Grandpa’s Scrub.”

“Transport for NSW held community forums two-and-a-half years ago before deciding on a low impact route that would traverse already cleared land and horticultural properties. In an act of political bastardry, there has since been a decision to change the route that will destroy critically endangered species and ecological communities. “

“To justify the new route, Transport for NSW commissioned a new assessment that only examined the weedy fringe of Grandpa’s scrub and over-ruled the original report that correctly identified the significance of this remnant rainforest. “

“Sam Farraway needs to immediately stop this madness and release the documents that justify the decision to change the route of the bypass and explain why the new route favours influential local business owners despite the proven presence of critically endangered species that will be destroyed.”

“Grandpa’s Scrub is a small but significant stand of unique endangered biodiversity and contains living fossils from the ancient Gondwana Rainforests that are found nowhere else on Earth.”

“We must not let the Government destroy this part of our environment. It is quite unbelievable that we would let this happen when we can have the highway bypass follow the route that passes through cleared land and horticultural areas as was decided following the original consultation and assessments, “It’s not too late, in fact we are just in time to do the right thing. If we wrongfully continue with the current proposed route; only then will it be too late – for these very special parts of our environment” Ms Higginson said.

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