In July 2023 Darwin hosted the Ecological Society of Australia’s annual conference. At the same time, just down the road, the Territory community was rallying to prevent the planned destruction by Defence Housing Australia of Binybara (Lee Point), a place of immense cultural and ecological importance.
As the week unfolded, expert ecologists showed their support both at the conference and down at the Binybara (Lee Point) camp. More than 300 ESA delegates signed the below petition in support of the community action opposing the development. The petition has been delivered to Minister Tanya Plibersek as well as other relevant Federal and Territory politicians.
Letter to Minister Plibersek
We, the undersigned, are scientists and experts from around Australia attending the Australian Ecological Society (ESA) in Darwin 2023.
We are aware of the proposed Lee Point Defence housing development planned for the coastal fringes of Darwin within the Casuarina Coastal Reserve biodiversity corridor, within the Northern Territory Shoal Bay Site of Conservation Significance.
The Lee Point development has featured in presentations at the 2023 ESA conference, and the need for Larrakia lead Biodiversity planning and conservation for the greater Darwin area. Many concerned community members have attended the conference to raise their concerns with ESA delegates about the proposed developed at Lee Point.
It is clear that the Lee Point proposal is a classic example of the government failing to ensure the mitigation hierarchy – to first avoid, then mitigate, then finally as a last resort, utilise offsets for development that impacts matters of national environmental significance. The development approval over Lee Point, a recognised site of conservation significance, of deep cultural significance to the Larrakia Traditional Owners and habitat for multiple nationally listed threatened species, highlights the urgent need for reform of our federal nature laws.
The on-going and regional scale-needs for conserving the endangered Gouldian finch, the endangered black-footed tree-rat, the vulnerable northern brushtail possum and all seven EPBC Act listed migratory shore birds present at Lee Point, must be given due scrutiny in the assessment of this development proposal. The mitigation hierarchy has not been implemented, as the Friends of Lee Point Group have pointed out that more appropriate brownfield sites for housing development are available in Darwin.
We are very concerned that the offsets proposed for the threatened and migratory species occurring within the Lee Point area will have little benefit to these species, as they are insufficient for the species requirement, vaguely worded, and not required to be produced prior to the action taking place. We cannot be complacent in the conservation and recovery of Threatened, and near threatened species and must prioritise avoiding impacts, as per the mitigation hierarchy, otherwise these species may not continue to persist.
We, delegates of the 2023 ESA Conference representing some of Australia top ecologists and conservation experts, recommend that the Australian Government and Northern Territory Government immediately halt the Lee Point development. We encourage further community consultation with the Larrakia Traditional Owners, Darwin community and suitable threatened species experts to find a solution to housing which meets multiple conservation and sustainability objectives.
We also recommend that all levels of government engage with sound science, via the ESA and other recognised scientific associations, to identify pathways to incorporate ecological and sustainable development principles into design and practices for regional and urban planning, as well as the development of robust environmental law.