So most Western Australians are aware that even with the slow down in our state economy, we’re still going to see a huge expansion of our citizenry in our suburban realms – something like 70% growth (specifically, from about 2 million to 3.5 million by 2050, a rather intense statistic).
In response to this future scenario, the State Government has recognised that supporting this growth and delivering an efficient and liveable city while protecting our stunning natural environment (in one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots) is a significant challenge, to say the least.
The Government has thus prepared the draft Perth and Peel Green Growth Plan for 3.5 million (Green Growth Plan) (also just known as the Green Growth Plan). The intention of the plan is to deliver two key outcomes:
- Cut red tape by securing upfront Commonwealth environmental approvals & streamlining State environmental approvals for development; and
- Protect our remaining natural areas (bushland, rivers, wildlife & wetlands)
i.e. integrating environmental protection and land use planning.
The plan was guided by advice by the Environmental Protection Authority, which released a report in August advising that uncontrolled urban sprawl could not continue without heating up the metropolitan area and driving out native animal species (did you know that Perth is the same geographic size as Greater London?!).
Key elements of the plan include:
- an additional 170,000 hectares of new conservation reserves;
- the establishment of a Peel Regional Park and Peel Harvey marine management area;
- measures to improve management of threatened plant & animal species and significant wetlands; and
- introduction of mandatory soil testing to reduce nutrient runoff into coastal plain catchments.
The draft Green Growth Plan is currently available for comment by the public, with submissions closing in just over a month – 13th May 2016 is the deadline.
However, is all as it seems, and how well will the Plan protect or declining natural areas and wildlife? Some groups are starting to question how genuine the benefits of the Plan actually are with respect to the (lack of) prioritisation of habitat retention, and the Government’s management of ongoing loss of critical habitat.
Birdlife Australia recently pointed out that the population of Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus latirostris), a species listed as ‘endangered’ living only in the southwest of WA, has dropped by 15% each year over the past six years. It is also a species that has come to depend heavily on the non-native pine plantations throughout Perth as prime feeding and roosting habitats since the 1940s (a bird’s gotta roost you know!). This has occurred in response to shrinking food sources associated with the clearing/decline of their traditional home turf, Banksia woodland, due to the effects of urban development, pest species and dieback. Thus plantations such as the 23,000 ha of pines at Gnangara have become even more critical as a food supply, with one study finding that these plantations support several thousand birds each year (almost 60% of birds counted in 2014 were associated with Gnangara).
The catch is that the Government has decided to clear a lot of the plantation to increase aquifer recharge in response to declining rainfall – pine trees suck up a lot more water than just pasture or grass. So while the plan proposes to replant 5,000 ha of the 23,000 ha of pines which will be cleared, it will take significant time for the young trees to become mature and a real source of food. Clearing an additional 14,000 ha of native habitat will also reduce edible options for these birds.
So the question the cockies will likely be asking over the next few years is ‘What on earth are we going to eat?? Those flying bugs are starting to give me stomach cramps!’.
While the plan does increase the level of protection of 116,000 ha of existing bushland to ‘conservation reserves’ expected to result in one of the largest expansions of a conservation reserve system surrounding a capital city ever undertaken worldwide, this does not address the reduction in either native habitat and non-native areas which support Carnaby’s and other species of critters. While strategic planning is important for the establishment of future urban, industrial and rural residential development in Perth & the Peel region, it seems that the current cockatoo population cannot be sustained if this plan is implemented in its current state.
If you don’t want to take our word for it, have a better look at the fine print by heading over to the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s website and download the Green Growth Plan documents and mapping.
Further details on how to make submissions are available here:
So please exercise your democratic rights and have your say: get yourselves to the WA Government’s website and make a submission via post or email! Otherwise we as a community must otherwise be content with the outcomes.