Friday, 3 March 2023
The dredging of sand bars at Port Hacking, in New South Wales, has ignited a furore over the preservation of bird habitat, with BirdLife Australia calling for an immediate halt to the operations, having referred the matter to the Federal Government.
Port Hacking, south of Sydney, is a sheltered inlet with numerous sand bars that form crucial habitat for Critically Endangered Eastern Curlews. The population of these migratory shorebirds has declined by 80 per cent in recent years, due largely to the destruction of their coastal habitats. The dredging of sand bars is part of that habitat destruction.
“BirdLife Australia is deeply concerned about the Sutherland Shire Council’s dredging activities that are disturbing critically endangered migratory shorebirds,” said Andrew Hunter, Conservation Campaigner at BirdLife Australia.
“These birds are highly sensitive and any disturbance [from dredging and other activities] risks them using up valuable calories they need to successfully make the 10,000-kilometre trip to breed in the Arctic summer.”
The Sutherland Shire had ordered the dredging operations to make the inlet more readily navigable by watercraft, and had commissioned an independent, expert Review of Environmental Factors to ensure that their actions would not damage the habitat. The review specifically stated that dredging operations should be delayed until after April, by which time the migratory shorebirds would have left the area, having commenced their long-haul migration to the Northern Hemisphere by then.
“An independent Review of Environmental Factors for the project stated that dredging works should only happen after April when migratory shorebirds had already departed,” Mr Hunter said.
Nevertheless, the Council chose to ignore the expert advice, and began the dredging works in February instead.
“The dredging activities have already commenced in a direct breach of this independent report, likely breaching Australia’s national environmental legislation, the EPBC Act.”
“BirdLife Australia has sought legal advice and written urgently to the Council calling for an immediate cease to the dredging while a potential EPBC breach is investigated.”
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