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Tuesday, 12 March 2013
Page: 1499

Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (19:13): I rise to talk about a very important decision that the federal government made recently listing the monsoon vine thickets on the Dampier Peninsula in the Kimberley as a threatened ecological community. These thickets occur along the coastal sand dunes of the Dampier Peninsula and are very important, as is indicated by their listing. Under the criteria for listing, the minister can list something as vulnerable or as endangered, which is criteria 4, and that says it can be listed as endangered because the reduction in integrity across most of its range is severe, as indicated by severe degradation of the community and disruption of community processes. This particular threatened ecological community has been listed as endangered—in other words, the integrity of most of its range has been affected and influenced by severe degradation and disruption to its processes.

Unfortunately this particular listing seems to have gone under the radar and it has not been noticed that much. However, the communities on the Dampier Peninsula and those in Broome have paid close attention because they have been working for years to try and get these thickets cleared. These thickets are going to be cleared by the James Price Point development, 130 hectares which apparently the EPA in Western Australia thinks is perfectly okay because its assessment ticked off the development application and said that this proposal could have environmental approval.

There is a section of these thickets at James Price Point, and they occur up the coastal sand dunes from Broome to the Dampier Peninsula. Each one is slightly different and each is very important, because species move seasonally through these vine thickets to feed on the fruits as they flower and fruit seasonally. Of course, Aboriginal people did exactly the same thing as they used these vine thickets for a significant amount of bush food and medicine. Again, because of the different flowering seasons of the vegetation, Aboriginal people used these vines to move up and down the coast. These thickets are very important, as can be taken from the fact that they have been listed. They have high levels of biodiversity and sustain a wide range of wildlife which are also unique and precious.

Unfortunately there is still much to learn about these areas, but when you talk to Aboriginal people that used to and still do use these areas you learn that these Aboriginals camped in these areas. They are very important ceremonial and law grounds. Each thicket is unique and within one kilometre or less you can encounter different flora and fauna. You cannot damage one area without damaging another area, because they have important interrelationships with the fauna using that area. These species that are listed as endangered, threatened ecological communities are about to lose another 130 hectares due to the James Price Point development.

The problem is that apparently this listing is not retrospective. Because developers have already put their hands up to say, 'We want to clear this area,' in theory they are going to be allowed to clear over 130 hectares of this endangered, threatened ecological community that plays a critical role in Aboriginal communities and is important for the fauna in these areas. In addition to the initial destruction, the long-term effects of the James Price Point project—such as pollution, increased human activity and other incremental loss—will cause permanent and irreparable damage to these thickets.

These thickets have now been listed as a threatened ecological community. The federal government has a responsibility to ensure the integrity of remaining thickets and ensure that the James Price Point development is thoroughly assessed, bearing in mind that these thickets are part of a threatened ecological community.