Government attempts cover-up of NSW's rarest bird

New research released last week has revealed a remote Blue Mountains valley holds one of the last breeding populations of the Regent honeyeater, NSW’s rarest bird. The World Heritage listed Burragorang Valley, located 70 kilometres west of Sydney, would be inundated by the proposed raising of the Warragamba Dam wall (for flood mitigation).

The ABC has today reported that an email from NSW Office of Environment and Heritage instructed WaterNSW, the proponents of the dam raising project, to suspend all environmental impact research into the Burragorang Regent honeyeater population after the initial discovery of the bird was made late last year.

Ornithologist, Dr Martin Schulz, said the find was “spectacular” and “highly significant”.

“We had no idea the population was this substantial. The research shows there were at least 7 breeding pairs and more than 20 individuals residing in the Burragorang Valley during flowering last year. You have to realise we are looking at only around 100 breeding pairs left in the wild.

“With limited effort, the researchers found almost 10% of Australia’s remaining breeding Regent honeyeaters in the Burragorang Valley. There is no doubt this valley is critical to their survival, with more Regent honeyeaters likely to be found if adequate investigations were undertaken by the NSW Government.

“Flooding of the Burragorang Valley will be tantamount to signing off on the bird’s extinction."

Colong Foundation for Wilderness Campaign Manager, Harry Burkitt, said: “while it is disgraceful the NSW Government is considering flooding a World Heritage site, it would be scandalous if the NSW Government is intentionally covering up the severe ecological impacts of a large public infrastructure project with viable alternatives.”

“Not only does the dam proposal fly in the face of the World Heritage Convention, but it would now appear the environmental impact statement being prepared by WaterNSW will not meet either state or federal environmental assessment requirements.

“The NSW Government is trying to cover-up a find of national environmental significance because it doesn’t suit their political agenda of allowing more developers onto downstream floodplains.”

Dean Ingwersen of BirdLife Australia said his organisation opposed the Warragamba Dam wall raising proposal due to its impact on the critically endangered bird species.

“The fact is Regent honeyeaters are literally one step from disappearing. We only have small pockets of known breeding habitat left along the east coast of Australia.

“Intentional destruction of Regent honeyeater breeding habitat, for a species this close to the brink, is simply unacceptable. You can’t just replace known breeding habitat of a critically endangered species like this.”

Media contact:
Harry Burkitt
0490 010 909