The Black Summer bushfires hit the Shoalhaven hard burning through 80 percent of its forest areas. Wildlife has been pushed to the brink with surviving animals and birds taking refuge in the small pockets of habitat that remain, wildlife carers still supplementing food in many areas.
Described as one of the worst wildlife disasters in modern history, across the country an estimated three billion animals died as the fires spread over 18 and a half million hectares of our country. After such an ecological crisis a moratorium on all forest clearing – for development, logging and farming – would be part of any normal recovery. Not it appears in Australia and its states. Not in the Shoalhaven; and not in Manyana.
The Manyana Matters Environmental Association (MMEA) have been fighting off the Ozy Homes Manyana Beach development, and now another development on the Inyadda Beach side of town has emerged. The group holds deep concerns about the proposed new housing subdivision which will destroy yet more ecologically significant unburnt forest in the area and remove habitat for wildlife.
Last week, a referral was submitted to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment regarding plans for an enormous housing estate on a 76-hectare block of land in Manyana.
The news comes on the back of the community’s well publicised creative efforts to prevent a 182-lot development from going ahead straight after the Black Summer bushfires – a battle that continues some 15 months on.
MMEA founder Jorj Lowrey says there are a number of significant issues with this separate proposal.
“There have been many attempts to develop this land in the past, dating back to the 80’s but it’s never been able to get over the line due to environmental constraints,” Ms Lowrey said. “The current owner’s documentation openly declares the proposal would impact a number of threatened ecological communities, flora and fauna species and will likely be declared a controlled action.”
The 2019-2020 bushfires devastated so much native habitat. The natural environment is only just beginning the healing process from those horrific bushfires. We simply can’t allow more native forest to be destroyed, nor animal lives to be lost. And it seems obvious this land never should have been considered for development in the first place.
MMEA is asking Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley not to approve this proposed action, and to shut it down once and for all. The group also requests the entire land be zoned E1 National Parks and Nature or at a minimum Environmental Conservation.
The community holds strong concerns about the damage to the native habitat this project would cause for many species protected under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. The area boasts many protected species including the white-throated needletail, migratory black-faced monarch and rufous fantail, the tiny eastern pygmy possum, the glossy black and gang-gang cockatoos, sooty owl, little bent-winged bat and mainland dusky antechinus, just to name a few.
The Association is also concerned about the impact the project would have on the critically endangered hooded plover which inhabit and breed on Inyadda Beach, adjacent to the site.
The proposed development footprint is over threatened ecological communities, including Illawarra Lowlands Grassy Woodland in the Sydney Basin Bioregion (Endangered, BC Act; Critically endangered, EPBC Act), Bangalay Sand Forest of the Sydney Basin and Southeast Corner bioregions (Endangered, BC Act) and Swamp Oak Floodplain Forest of the NSW North Coast, Sydney Basin and Southeast Corner Bioregions (Endangered, BC Act and EPBC Act).
Ms Lowrey said “Parcels of land like this that didn’t get burnt in the Currowan Mega Fire are vital for the regeneration of the bush, and for the survival of animals that escaped the fires. The portion of the land that would not be built on and claimed as a biodiversity offset to compensate for the removal of unburnt endangered woodlands was some of the worst hit by the fires. It’s preposterous!”
Offsets and credit systems to allow development, and placate community and conservationists do nothing to protect the wildlife and forests developers destroy in the name of progress, housing and profit.
A moratorium while forests recover, to allow wildlife to breed and re-establish goes hand in hand with the moral responsibility charged towards all levels of government, to look after the lands of this country.
Manyana is surrounded by Conjola National Park. Approximately, 95 per cent of this 11,060-hectare national park was burnt in the 2019-2020 fires. This planned development is one of two proposed projects that, if approved, would clear around half of the remaining unburnt forest areas in Manyana.
A consultation period for this project is currently open for public comment until Thursday 3rd June 2021 (inclusive). MMEA is encouraging members of the public to learn more about the project at the EPBC notices invitation to comment page and submit any environmental concerns they have in writing to firstname.lastname@example.org with the reference: 2021/8948 The Trustee for Manyana Property Trust/Residential Development/Manyana, Shoalhaven City LGA/New South Wales/North Manyana Subdivision, NSW.
If you would like more information about the project’s environmental impacts on threatened species and how to effectively make a comment about this referral, please visit Manyana Matters Facebook page.
We acknowledge that the prospect of this land being cleared is having a profound impact on the mental health of people within the Manyana community and beyond. We encourage those experiencing distress to reach out to Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36 or LifeLine on 13 11 14 for support.
Feature image: Arial view of site of planned proposal. Photo supplied