White-bellied Sea Eagle
Freycinet chopper flights a sign of things to come with no community consultation and urgent need for Federal assessment
The Freycinet Action Network and BirdLife Tasmania today condemned the helicopter joy flights over the Freycinet National Park that started operation in December 2017, with no community consultation, no environmental assessment and no DPIPWE oversight.
Activities that are likely to have a significant impact on nationally listed threatened species or significant wetlands such as the Ramsar-listed Moulting Lagoon must be referred to the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment for assessment.
The introduction of helicopters at Freycinet poses a new risk to threatened eagles and disturbs breeding and non-breeding waterbirds using the internationally-significant wetlands.
A compromise “Fly Neighbourly Advice” guidance document to manage flights near eagle nests is weak, and local reports suggest poor compliance by the pilots. Locals and visitors have no confidence that impacts on eagles are being dealt with. The flights are adversely affecting visitors’ amenity while in the National Park.
“This is a sign of things to come if the Liberals win government at tomorrow’s state election,” said Sophie Underwood, from the Freycinet Action Network. “Together, the new statewide planning scheme and the proposed major projects legislation reduces the community’s input into decisions that affect them or things they care about.”
“The fact that new helicopter joy flights slipped through the assessment cracks, with no consultation, no rights of appeal and little actual oversight is extremely disappointing and short-sighted.” Ms Underwood noted.
“The White-bellied Sea-eagle is listed as Threatened, and the Wedge-tailed Eagles is Endangered. Both species are known to be highly sensitive to helicopter operations.” Dr Eric Woehler, Convenor for Birdlife Tasmania said. “Both species are known to nest around Moulting Lagoon and on the Freycinet Peninsula. Clearly there is concern that the flights will impact on nesting eagles” Dr Woehler added.
Over 550 personal emails have been sent to Premier and Tourism Minister Will Hodgman calling for Freycinet Peninsula to be a heli-tourism free zone, since Freycinet Action Network launched its petition in late December 2017.
“It’s clear this operation could have significant impacts on Threatened species such as the White-bellied Sea-eagle and the Wedge-tailed Eagle, and therefore the Premier and the company must refer the matter to the Commonwealth Minister to ensure nationally significant species and internationally-significant wetlands are not at risk,” Ms Underwood and Dr Woehler jointly concluded.
Authorised by: Sophie Underwood, 130 Davey Street, Hobart.