Expert review of the Black-Throated Finch Management Plan and Adani

Issued: 21 Jan 2019

The location of Adani’s proposed Carmichael Coal Mine hosts the largest and most significant known population of the Black-Throated Finch in Australia.

This is why the Department of Environment and Science (DES), as the State’s environmental regulator, is seeking the best possible scientific advice on how the Carmichael coal mine may impact this species.

Accordingly, DES engaged Brendan Wintle, Professor in Conservation Ecology at the University of Melbourne, to develop a panel to undertake an independent expert review of the Black-throated Finch Management Plan (BTFMP).

Professor Wintle, who is leading the review, is putting together a panel of up to six leading scientific experts, highly experienced and qualified in their relevant fields, to conduct the review.

DES took no part in selecting the membership of the panel, and did not contract the Threatened Species Recovery Hub (TSRH) to conduct the review.

While Professor Wintle is the National Director of the TSRH, which is a part of the National Environmental Science Program (NESP), the panel of contract scientists and science leaders are performing the review in their professional capacity, and are independent of the NESP TSRH.

DES considers the expert review a necessary measure given the significance and potential impacts to this threatened species. It is not uncommon for DES, as with other governments, to seek independent expert advice when assessing projects with significant environmental impacts.

The review is consistent with the approach taken by the Federal Department of Environment and Energy, which has engaged CSIRO and Geoscience Australia to undertake an independent scientific review of Adani’s Groundwater Dependent Ecosystem Management Plan.

The expert review of the BTFMP will make certain that management and mitigation measures are in line with the best available threatened species scientific knowledge by nationally recognised ecologists.

This will ensure the species’ best chance of success from the proposed management actions and research and ensure the department’s decision on the BTFMP is consistent with the very best threatened species and conservation science.

The expert review is expected to be completed in February and DES will consider the review advice in making a decision on the BTFMP.

The expert panel is being remunerated for the services it is providing.

DES is aware that claims have been made in the media that a recent Townsville road project proceeded without the level of review that is currently being made for the Adani project’s impacts to the Black-Throated Finch.

However, as the location of Adani’s proposed coal mine hosts the largest and most significant known population of the Black-Throated Finch in Australia, DES believes a thorough and detailed enquiry into the impacts the mine will have on this species is warranted.

Some examples of situations where DES has engaged and/or participated in third party expert reviews including:

  • Commissioned consultants to provide independent expert advice on the condition of a Tailings Storage Facility at a mine in the North West Queensland.
  • Engaged the University of Adelaide for palaeoecological investigations to assist in determining whether there are potential impacts from a mining activity; and
  • Participated in independent panels comprising representatives from Australian universities and other subject matter experts to address water management issues at both a refinery and a mine site in North Queensland.