The Cassowary is so iconic to this part of Queensland, that the local government is named Cassowary Coast Regional Council. Yet that hasn’t stopped this authority from approving a controversial new heliport development that will significantly impact the already-endangered cassowaries of Mission Beach.
Frightened Cassowary at Misson Beach (photo by Jeff Larson)
In January this year, elected representatives of Cassowary Coast Regional Council approved a development application for an aviation facility on Tully-Mission Beach Road on 11.16ha of land that is zoned rural.
While the local authority approved this development without any consideration of a petition presented, it is still possible for the Minister for State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning to call-in the development application. The Minister can do this if the Application affects State Interests.
It goes without saying that the endangered Southern Cassowary is a matter of State Interest. The iconic bird is recognised in local, regional, State and Federal planning instruments and legislation and is protected under Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act as well as the federal Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act (EPBC).
The Far North Queensland Regional Plan refers to Mission Beach as containing areas of High Ecological Significance including essential habitat of the endangered Southern Cassowary. That same Plan states that development proponents should consider the EPBC Act prior to taking any action, but to date, the applicant has not done so.
Cassowary Coast Regional Council’s very own Planning Scheme refers to the preservation of Cassowary habitat because the Cassowary is recognised as an iconic symbol of the region.
Habitat loss is the number one threat to the survival of the endangered Southern Cassowary. We know that the land on which this development will take place includes mapped areas of High Ecological Significance. Yet, this Development Application was not supported by any technical reports that allow us to ascertain the biodiversity value of adjacent habitat, the measures required to protect biodiversity and habitat on that site, or the demonstrated impact on biodiversity values.
The Development Application contained no assessment from a qualified expert as to how the facility will impact existing nesting, breeding and roosting sites located adjacent to the development or the impact on those sites being disturbed during take-off and landing procedures.
The noise pollution from the development is likely to have a high impact on the behaviour of cassowaries already under stress of being pushed into small habitat ranges and forced to use narrow habitat corridors.
- The development’s flight path is directly over a high biodiversity coastal wetland including critically endangered Littoral rainforest which connects the Wet Tropics and the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Areas.
- The impact zone of the flight path from the facility is over a wilderness area which supports five cassowaries on a permanent basis.
- The loud noise of helicopters will place cassowaries at a higher risk of roadkill from birds taking fright and may result in cassowaries avoiding essential habitat.
- Cassowaries are mostly solitary and communicate with low frequency booming sounds that penetrate the rainforest to let other birds know of their presence. Helicopter noise and vibration may confuse or interrupt their ability to communicate.
We can’t count on Cassowary Coast Regional Council to take action for cassowaries, but we can count on people power. With your support, we’re asking the Minister to call-in this development for re-assessment, something he has the power to do.
This development undoubtedly affects an environmental interest of state significance: the preservation of the endangered Southern Cassowary and its habitat in the Mission Beach area.
The potential effects of this development on the Southern Cassowary have not been properly assessed because of the inadequate information in the Development Application material.
And the Development Application is inconsistent with the principles of ecological sustainability that underpin the Planning Act. For this project to be consistent with those principles it would need to conserve, enhance or restore habitat necessary for the survival of the endangered Southern Cassowary.
This is why we’re calling on the Queensland Minister for State Development, Infrastructure, Local Government and Planning to acknowledge that this Development Application affects a State Interest and to use Call-in powers to re-assess the application.
Please help us secure a future for Mission Beach cassowaries and sign our petition now.