The NSW Land and Environment Court has ruled Cessnock City Council had no legal power to approve the development Hunter Economic Zone without first conducting a species impact statement on the Regent Honeyeater.
The Friends of Tumblebee, represented by the Environment Defenders Office, successfully challenged Cessnock City Council’s approval of the construction of an industrial development in an area of forest that is home to the critically endangered bird.
The group argued that a species impact statement should have been undertaken before the development was approved.
It cited research showing the Hunter Economic Zone, where the development would have been located, contains one of the few remaining viable breeding sites for the bird.
The area supports about 10 per cent of the national population of between 350 to 400 birds, according to the latest assessment.
The Regent Honeyeater is described by the federal Environment Department as a 'flagship species' for conservation.
The court ruled, that because the proposed development would require clearing the habitat of the Regent Honeyeater, it would have a significant impact on the bird’s survival.
This means Cessnock City Council had no legal power to approve the development without a species impact statement, which provides a comprehensive understanding of the development’s impacts on the Honeyeater.
Friends of Tumblebee spokesman James Ryan said the group was relieved.
“The Regent Honeyeater is on the brink of extinction, we need to do all that we can to protect it, we should be doing all that we can to help the species to recover and move off the critically endangered list,” he sad.
We should not be allowing development in the few areas where the bird is still breeding. The bird’s ability to breed is essential to its survival.”
“The Hunter Economic Zone has never made planning sense.”