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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 67

(Question No. 4713)

Mr Tickner asked the Minister for Arts, Heri- tage and Environment, upon notice, on 7 October 1986:

(1) What action is he able to take to protect the shore terraces at Christmas Island from environmental degradation.

(2) Do these terraces contain one of the highest concentrations on the island of nesting seabirds, including 1500 pairs of the endangered Christmas Island Frigatebird.

(3) Is he aware that the Phosphate Mining Corporation is alleged to have bulldozed island rainforest containing nesting sites of the endangered Abbotts Booby; if so, will he investigate the matter and take remedial steps to protect the species.

(4) Have any international conventions been breached as a result of mining activities on the island.

Mr Cohen —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) The Government takes action to protect the natural values of Christmas Island, including the shore terraces, through the provision of advice to the Christmas Island Assembly on environmental protection and conservation matters, including the implementation of wildlife protection ordinances, the establishment of national parks on the Island and through the requirement that clearing proposals have the approval of the Government Conservator.

Christmas Island National Park contains important areas of shore terrace. With the proclamation on 31 January 1986 of Christmas island (Stage 2) and Christmas Island (Stage 3) National Parks, additional areas of shore terrace were included within the national park, including very significant seabird breeding habitat around North West Point. The National Park now covers 2370 hectares or 17 per cent of Christmas Island, including approximately 25 kilometres of continuous shoreline.

Under the terms of a 1984 agreement, the Phosphate Mining Corporation of Christmas Island submits all clearing plans for approval to the Government Conservator. Where agreement on a clearing plan cannot be reached, there is provision for the matter to be referred through the Director of the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service (ANPWS) to the Minister for resolution. I understand that a plan was recently submitted for the western shore terrace of South Point but that this has now been withdrawn following adoption of a new Corporation Plan which does not require phosphate rock from this source at this time.

(2) Sections of the shore terrace do contain very high concentrations of nesting seabirds on a seasonal basis. Species using the shore terraces for breeding include Red-footed Boobies, Brown Boobies, endemic Christmas Island Frigatebirds, Great Frigatebirds, Red-tailed Tropicbirds and White-tailed Tropicbirds. Most numerous is the Red-footed Booby which nests in colonies in trees on many parts of the shore terrace and slopes of the inland cliff. The endangered Christmas Island Frigatebird nests only in colonies on the north-east terraces of the Island and measures are in place to ensure the protection of its habitat.

(3) In the past, before there was a proper awareness of the conflict between mining and Abbott's Booby, nesting habitat of this species was extensively cleared. This does not happen now. The Phosphate Mining Corporation jointly funds, with the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, an Abbott's Booby Monitoring Program and, in accordance with the 1984 agreement, following any clearing undertakes rehabilitation on a routine basis. Extensive safeguards are now in place.

(4) I am unaware of any breaches of international conventions as a result of mining activities on the Island since conservation guidelines were introduced.