Rare plants still under threat from Coffs Harbour bypass route

A blue quandong tree in one of the last remaining original forest areas in Coffs Harbour.


COFFS Harbour Fontainea, the rare plant which was recently discovered on the proposed Coffs Harbour bypass route, has been provisionally listed as a critically endangered species by the NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee.

Local conservationist Mark Graham, who has succeeded in having Coffs Harbour Fontainea listed, says that this usually provides a measure of protection for endangered plants and animals, but Mr Graham is fearful that the plant will still be made extinct.

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As well as Coffs Harbour Fontainea, there are three other pockets of land that are thought to be remnants of the original forests that covered the Coffs Coast area.

There is concern that these remnants will be destroyed along with the Fontainea.

Mr Graham said he hopes to find out soon when the Fontainea listing will be gazetted, because gazetting the provisional listing makes the government accountable for its actions to protect the species.

He told News Of The Area, “My understanding is that Transport for NSW is attempting to dig up the last remaining female of the critically endangered Coffs Harbour Fontainea before gazetting of the determination to list the species”.

“This will make the species extinct in the wild,” he said.

He said that the minor deviations needed to save the rare plants are readily achievable and there should be no engineering or other constraints.

A Transport NSW spokesperson said, “A number of management measures are being investigated to avoid and mitigate the impact on them.

“This includes investigating the viability of adjusting the design of the motorway to avoid the species, fencing and protecting species in the road corridor, translocating the species, and propagating the species’.

Mr Graham said, “I am hoping that this listing provides a legal safety net.

“To the best of my knowledge, making something extinct in the wild like this has never been done by a government.”

Fellow conservationist Dave Wood is also concerned about the forest pockets.

Mr. Wood said that the forest remnants contained plants such as white booyongs, yellow carabeens and blue quandongs that were common in pre-European times.

The Environmental Impact Statement for the bypass states, ‘The design has been refined to avoid and reduce potential impacts to biodiversity’.

Transport for NSW has confirmed that this entails the area being cleared, after seed and plant samples are collected.

Mr Graham said, “No one is suggesting stopping the bypass, but very minor tweaks must be made to stop the extinction of the Coffs Harbour Fontainea.”


By Andrew VIVIAN

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