Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Biologists warn species at risk from new field

ENDANGERED species such as pygmy possums, bats, mice and striped wallabies will become extinct in northern NSW if the state's largest gas field goes ahead as planned, biologists have warned the federal government.

A planned coal seam gas operation near Narrabri would put at least 110 gas wells and 1000 kilometres of pipelines through the Pilliga woodland area, according to a plan being put forward by Eastern Star Gas.

Eastern Star said it was positive that this could be done with minimal impact on plants and animals and said it welcomed the independent wildlife survey.

But the study, commissioned by the Northern Inland Council for the Environment, found 20 endangered species living in the area slated for the gas field, only some of which had been identified by the company's own research.

A report will be forwarded to the federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, who will be required to assess the gas field's impact on endangered fauna.

The team of 15 biologists and volunteers who completed the study on a pro bono basis said vulnerable animals would be severely affected.

''These animals will become locally extinct … exotic species will proliferate instead - foxes, goats, feral pigs,'' a director of the consultancy Landmark Ecological Services, David Milledge, said.
''This is 4000 square kilometres of forest and woodland. It is very important for these species.''

A spokesman for Eastern Star Gas, which is about to be taken over by Santos, said more than 2800 hours had been spent over the past year gathering information about the area's plants and animals.
''ESG's proposals … are meticulously planned to avoid areas of high ecological value, minimise impacts where possible and undertake to rehabilitate fully, with a significant amount of this rehabilitation occurring immediately after the construction phase,'' the spokesman, Peter Fox, said.

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