You’d be forgiven for thinking that the very existence of national environmental laws creates an obligation on Environment Ministers to protect the environment. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Instead, their obligations are limited by the objects and duties that are specified in the law. And in the case of our...
Humane Society International (HSI) is calling on the Commonwealth Government to immediately put a stop to the harassment of spectacled flying-foxes in Cairns by revoking the approval for Cairns Regional Council to “relocate” the Endangered species from a site recognised as nationally-important to their survival.
Despite the already controversial approval specifying actions could only take place for a maximum of 30 days, the flying-foxes have now been blasted with sound and light as they come in to roost for 37 days straight. This highly inappropriate prolonged harassment of an Endangered species has been subsequently permitted through an as yet unexplained “variation” to conditions that tripled the definition of “maximum period” to 90 days.
“The fact that after more than five weeks of sustained harassment flying-foxes are still roosting at this site demonstrates how important it is to them. The so-called relocation attempt has failed but instead of insisting Cairns Regional Council complies with conditions and ceases activities the Commonwealth is facilitating their continuation,” said HSI’s Head of Programs Evan Quartermain.
“Allowing more than three months of constant stress to these sensitive animals is a bad call at the best of times, but in this case also pushes activities into a dangerous period for their breeding season. This is an Endangered species we’re talking about, and by extending timeframes the Government is allowing them be tormented while heavily pregnant,” Mr Quartermain continued.
HSI has written to Minister for the Environment requesting a Statement of Reasons for the decision, and is exploring options for legal intervention after being made aware of allegations there have been numerous and varied breaches to the approval. These include prescribed start and finish times being exceeded and a lack of required monitoring at potential relocation sites.
HSI understands that an investigation into the potential condition breaches may be underway, though Government officials have so far refused to confirm if this is the case. Such an investigation would be welcomed; however it would raise questions over whether the Department was aware of the allegations prior to approving the extension of the harmful actions.
“Numerous recent audits have highlighted that there are serious issues with how the Department is implementing our environment laws, even singling out vague and quickly varied conditions as a particular problem. The way this situation has been handled indicates little has changed,”
“The supposed justification for this dispersal was that it was in the best interest of the species due to negative influence of development at the site. That was questionable from the start and now the line has been clearly crossed – this can’t become an ‘at any cost’ dispersal,” Mr Quartermain concluded.