What does the future hold for the black-throated finch?

18 June 2019


Following a draft review of Adani’s “inadequate” management plan for the black-throated finch in February 2019, there was considerable speculation that the endangered species may stop the controversial Carmichael coal mine in Queensland’s Galilee Basin from becoming a reality.

After all, although not frequently, a species has stopped development before ‒ a classic being the boggomoss snail stopping to date the construction of the Nathan Dam on the Dawson River.

However, less than a month after the Department of Environment and Science (DES) announced the plan to be inadequate, the State’s environmental regulator approved Adani’s revised management plan to mitigate the impacts of the Carmichael mine on the endangered black-throated finch.

According to DES, the best possible scientific advice was received from an expert panel headed by Professor Wintle, the University of Melbourne and this information underpinned the final decision.

The Palaszczuk Government stated on 31 May 2019 that under the approved plan, Adani has committed to:

  • establishing an enhanced understanding of the black-throated finch
  • having in place appropriate monitoring protocols
  • restricting grazing in the acquired offset habitat adjoining the mine site.

Build it and (hopefully) they will come

Given that 70 – 80% of its known habitat has been lost in the last 100 years and in 2018 the black-throated finch was declared extinct in New South Wales, this species is certainly facing a significant long-term survival challenge. It is not listed by both the Commonwealth and State Governments as endangered for no reason.

Furthermore, several highly regarded experts, including Professor Bill Laurence, James Cook University and Dr April Reside, University of Queensland are questioning the likelihood of success of the plan and the survival of the species.

Wildlife Queensland has not perused the approved management plan. However, it is extremely difficult to have confidence that the approved management plan will, in fact, avoid Queensland following New South Wales in the long term.

Granted, small numbers of the black-throated finch have been observed at the acquired offset, but the area is not an exact ecological replica of the currently preferred habitat. The ‘build it and they will come’ philosophy does not always deliver the desired outcome.

In 2016, a management plan approach to re-establish this same species on similar habitat near the proposed development site was adopted to mitigate the impact of the Rocky Springs Masterplan Community development south-east of Townsville.

It is Wildlife Queensland’s understanding that to date the outcome has not been considered an outstanding success.

With Adani’s groundwater management plan approved on 13 June, works on the Carmichael mine are expected to commence within weeks.

Wildlife Queensland hopes that our concerns are never realized. However, only time will tell if the management plan succeeds or if the black-throated finch becomes a(nother) distant cherished memory of the past.


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