Forest alliance slams secret move to weaken wildlife protection at Maules Creek mine site

The Leard Forest Alliance says Whitehaven Coal has been secretly negotiating changes to its Biodiversity Management Plan with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment to allow them to keep clearing Leard State Forest over winter, in a move that will lead to widespread cruelty and death of threatened species and other wildlife.

The Plan previously required Whitehaven to avoid clearing in the winter months, because many species of wildlife go into hibernation or torpor, which prevents them being able to escape from bull-dozers and predators and dramatically increases the risk of death or injury.

Phil Laird said, “The Maules Creek Community Council wrote to the Environment and Planning Ministers through our lawyers this week asking them to intervene to protect the animals of Leard State Forest, but we have received word that these changes will be granted to accommodate Whitehaven’s desire to keep destroying the forest to meet their coal production timeline.

“We are frankly appalled that conditions put in place to protect wildlife would be torn up so easily by the Department of Environment and Planning. NSW has a new Premier, a new Environment Minister and a new Minister for Planning, but it seems we’ve still got the same old system that gives coal companies whatever they want, whenever they want it.

“The conditions, offsets strategy and environmental management of this mine are in tatters. We’ve been told that the wildlife will relocate when the clearing happens, but without this winter protection, that’s just not possible.”

Ecologist Phil Spark said, “Clearing the forest in winter will result in the displacement, injury or death of over seventy species of hibernating reptiles and frogs, bats and small marsupials that are sheltering in the hollow trees and logs to be cleared.  Those few that do escape the dozers will be likely be taken by predators.

“The Department is changing the rules to suit Whitehaven Coal and the wildlife of Leard State Forest is going to suffer and die as a result. Threatened snakes and bats, Squirrel Gliders and the Barking Owls which begin to nest in winter – all will be subjected to displacement, injury, or death.

“The other mining projects in the area have conditions that prevent them clearing in winter to protect the wildlife: without that winter protection the animals don’t stand a chance.”

Phil Laird concluded, “We’re pleading with the Environment Minister, Rob Stokes, to step in and stop this cruel and unnecessary haste and tell Whitehaven to stop clearing while the animals are hibernating.”

Further comment:

Phil Laird: 0428 712 622

Phil Spark: 0427 642 245