In what may be a first Roads and Maritime Services has released an issues report for the planned Princes Highway re-alignment making four modifications to the proposal one being –
” . . . The community has raised concerns regarding two environmental issues that were not identified as issues by SKM in their biodiversity assessment, being the potential impacts of the proposal on Bell Minor Associated Dieback and Myrtle Rust. RMS has requested that SKM further investigate these issues and details will be provided in the REF when it is placed on display for public comment in mid 2013.”
The other three recommendations, reducing the angle of a particular batter, hydrological studies and re-vegetation proposals are closely associated with the issues that the consultants Sinclair Knight Merz did not identify as issues.
Elsewhere in the report is the statement- ” . . . A number of fauna underpasses including culvert structures have been strategically located to improve fauna connectivity between Kooraban and Gulaga National Parks in consultation with Chris Allen, National Parks and Wildlife Services (NPWS) Koala specialist.”
Unlike the Forestry Corporation and the NPWS that are shrouded in legislation such that they can do and say whatever they want, the RMS may be a little more circumspect, given their actions can be subject to legal challenge.
The AAP has recently reported on a case in March last year when the OE&H had a successful prosecution in the Land and Environment Court about the clearing of trees in an area claimed to be larger than 12 hectares and ‘part of an endangered ecological community’ that ‘provided a preferred habitat for koalas’
The developer was fined $127,500 but took it to the Court of Criminal Appeal where it was overturned on several grounds and sent back to the Land and Environment Court.
According to the judgement the OE&H got pretty well everything wrong including the area cleared/logged and one of their expert witnesses, soil scientist Mitch Tulau, failed to comply with protocols required for expert evidence.
So it will be interesting to see what consultants Sinclair Knight Merz address in the revised Review of Environmental factors due mid year and if any threads to government expertise are exposed.