04/09/2007 - 22:00

Possum predicament in SW

04/09/2007 - 22:00

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Unique to the South West region of Western Australia, the western ringtail possum has found itself in the midst of a development boom in Busselton and Dunsborough which has government authorities and property developers chasing their tails.

Possum predicament in SW

Unique to the South West region of Western Australia, the western ringtail possum has found itself in the midst of a development boom in Busselton and Dunsborough which has government authorities and property developers chasing their tails.

As local, state and federal governments become more pro-active in possum conservation and management, some large development projects have been delayed for up to two years while development stakeholders battle to secure environmental clearances from the three-tiers of bureaucracy. 

Urban Development Institute of WA executive director, Debra Goostrey, told WA Business News ringtail possum management was a major issue for developers to navigate in the South West, as was protecting Carnarby’s black cockatoos.

Ms Goostrey said it was imperative that local, state and federal governments worked together to streamline the environmental approvals process by adopting the same approach to possum management.

The UDIA considers the matter important enough to hold a forum on possum management in Dunsborough this week.

At present, large development proposals must comply with the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act of 1999, as well as WA Department of Environment and Conservation and local government policies, before gaining planning approval.

 “It’s surprising to see how many developers that have possums impacting on what they are doing, not just in the South West but in the Great Southern area as well,” she said.

Among the development projects trying to either retain or relocate populations of possums are the Cape View Beach Resort in Dunsborough, Cape Care’s Ray Village retirement hostel in Busselton, Satterley Property Group’s Provence and Dalyellup estates and the latest Smiths Beach residential and tourism proposal for developer Canal Rocks.

Coffey Environments principal and environmental planning consultant, Dr Paul Van der Moezel, said the federal government had raised the possum conservation bar much higher than the state government had, by requiring detailed possum management plans for major developments.

Dr Van der Moezel said if possums needed to be relocated, the cost on each occasion could run into the tens of thousands of dollars as developers had to pay for expert handlers and radio monitoring collars for every possum.

“The commonwealth requires a lot from developers. In a sense they’ve got tough and have recognised what the act means and how to administer it,” he said.

Some project delays had resulted because of several federal department restructures and a lack of formal policy guidelines, particularly in the administration of conservation offset credits through re-vegetation efforts, Dr Van der Moezel said.

Possum expert and DEC research scientist, Paul de Tores, said the population of western ringtail possums in the state had contracted, largely due to the loss of peppermint trees, introduced predators such as foxes and cats and human encroachment.

In addition to the concentration of possums in Busselton, the species was also prevalent in the Jarrah and Marri forests to the north east of Manjimup and as far south as Albany, he said.

“I’m a pragamist. I accept that developers are responding to market needs and developing more light industry, retirement homes and private properties…but we have a real desire to maintain the peppermint trees and that requires a compromise,” he said.

The state government had set aside three sites in the South West region for possum relocation and had introduced predator protection by baiting foxes, resulting in the possum population being maintained, he said.

Mr de Tores acknowledged there was inconsistency in the approach to possum management between levels of government.

“There are no secrets. We try to be open with other government departments. It’s about making sure there are no bad decisions made,” he said. “In the end, it’s beholden upon us as a community to put adequate protections in place.”

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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