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The Hon Peter Garrett AM MP
Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts

Cassowary policy open for comment

Media release
8 August 2009
PG/317

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People living between Cooktown and Townsville are being asked to have a say on a draft policy about the southern cassowary.

Federal Environment Minister, Peter Garrett, said the policy was designed to guide people planning to build or develop in or near cassowary habitat and help them to avoid impacting on areas important to the cassowary’s survival.

“Cassowaries are crucial to rainforest regeneration because they eat fruits like native laurels, lillypillies and palms, and disperse the seeds in their droppings,” he said.

“Other species also rely on these plants and fruits being available—so essentially, the cassowary’s survival is central to the long-term viability of our rainforest communities.”

Mr Garrett said the southern cassowary was a protected species under the national environment law which meant people were not allowed to significantly impact on the species, its habitat or wildlife corridors.

“Land clearing, development and traffic are the key threats to the southern cassowary,” he said.

“One of the big problems they face is being cut off from the areas they need for survival like feeding and breeding habitat.

“They can travel over 4km a day and, more and more, they’re finding the corridors they use to reach the habitat they need are being blocked by development.

“They are then forced to cross roads to reach these areas, which means they’re more at risk of being hit by cars.”

Mr Garrett said the draft policy, developed with help from cassowary experts in north Queensland, mapped out the cassowary habitat in the area and showed people how better design could reduce impacts on the species and avoid further isolating them from these areas.

The policy would also provide more certainty for people in terms of where development could proceed in the area.

Mr Garrett last year rejected outright an application for a residential development at Mission Beach, stating it would have an unacceptable impact on the southern cassowary. This was only the second time a proposal has been deemed “clearly unacceptable” under the national environment law.

“Once a species is lost, there’s no getting it back—we need to make sure we are clever with our planning and design so we can continue to live alongside them,” Mr Garrett said.

People interested in viewing or commenting on the draft policy can go to www.environment.gov.au/epbc/publications/casuarius-casuarius-johnsonii.html

The public comment period closes on 28 August 2009. Submissions received will be considered in the development of the department’s final policy statement.

Commonwealth of Australia