2 November 2023

Proposed airport road would slay future of earless dragon, environmentalists say

| Sally Hopman
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Man with two women under lizard mural

Geoff Robertson and Sarah Sharp from Friends of Grasslands with the Director of the Conservation Council, ACT Region, Elle Lawless, under the Canberra Grassland Earless Dragon Mural at Canberra Airport. Photo: Supplied.

A proposed new road at Canberra Airport would be like a death sentence for the tiny Canberra Grassland Earless Dragon, environmentalists warned this week.

The dragon, which is less than 150 mm long and weighs under nine grams, was listed as “critically endangered” under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act in June this year. Subsequent monitoring at nine sites has since uncovered it at only two places.

The airport road was proposed by the Canberra Airport Group back in 2009, from Fairbairn to Majura Road in Pialligo, and was approved under environmental laws. But later, because the group could not secure the land it needed, the plans were revised, with the new road sparking environmental concern that it would cut the Natural Temperate Grassland habitat in two, threatening the survival of the dragon.

The Conservation Council of the ACT said the dragon had seen a 71 per cent population decline in just 10 years, local extinctions of once reliable populations and a small and ever decreasing geographic distribution. Fragmentation of the remaining habitat made it impossible for individuals to breed between populations.

Outside the road corridor, it said, the addition of two new bus parking areas, along with earthworks, would also destroy the habitat.

President of Friends of Grasslands, Jamie Pittock, said the road would “destroy and fragment critically endangered Natural Temperate Grassland”.

“It would likely be a death sentence for one of only three genetically distinct wild populations of Canberra Grassland Earless Dragon,” he said.

“The Federal Government has been waging a war against native temperate grasslands despite supposedly protecting them as a critically endangered ecosystem.

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“In the past few years in Canberra the Federal Government has approved destruction of this habitat at York Park and at Ainslie, and proposes further development at Lawson North and Campbell Park. The new Federal Government has an opportunity to live up to its rhetoric for conserving threatened species – such as the Canberra Dragon – by revoking approval for this unnecessary road at the airport.”

Executive director of the Conservation Council ACT Region, Elle Lawless, called on the Minister for the Environment, Tanya Plibersek, to revoke the road approval.

“We are in the midst of a biodiversity crisis, the Environment Minister has included the Canberra Grassland Earless Dragon in her list of species to be prioritised in the fight against extinctions. To honour this commitment and maintain a chance of protecting this species the road approval must be revoked,” she said.

Ms Lawless said the last time the community could comment on the project was in 2009 and “much had changed since then”.

“There have been huge scientific and planning changes to the project in those 14 years including discovering the dragon was a unique species and it being listed as critically endangered. There is no way the Minister can continue on with such an antiquated and now irrelevant approval.”

Region has approached the Canberra Airport Group for comment.

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Hardly endangered, they’re in plague proportions! Every time someone wants to develop somewhere, they’re there! They moved the Gungahlin marketplace from its original spot because of them years ago. I’m sure they didn’t all migrate out to the airport. I’m sure they will continue to live on both sides of the proposed road when it’s built and move out of the way like other lizards do when they see something encroaching on their spot.

The macro problem these protesters face is rapid urban expansion fuelled by ponzi-scheme immigration policies. That’s what is driving the encroachment of every urban fringe in Australia. But I won’t hold my breath waiting for them to join the dots.

Mr Lonsdale Parade11:12 am 03 Nov 23

Rustygear, you could not be more right. the insanity of bringing in half a million new people every year, allowing unfettered access to bringing in relatives who are beyond working years and contribute nothing but both a drain on the economy and ever expansion.
All under the guise of increasing the tax base.. without acknowledging in 20 years they’ll need to bring in a million a year to support the people now coming. a Ponzi scheme is a perfect description.

GrumpyGrandpa12:51 pm 03 Nov 23

If I can reply to both Rusty & Mr Parade, I’d go a tad further.
To sure up the tax base by substantially increasing migration, puts a huge demand on our housing stocks, at a time of rising living costs and interest rate pressures for young families with mortgages.

GrumpyGrandpa4:17 pm 03 Nov 23

The stupidity of this increase migration to prop up our tax system argument is that both major parties sign-off on the Stage 3 tax cuts that benefit those on higher incomes.
When Governments sell off our assets and cut taxes to secure the votes, what hope do we have?

Its not JUST about population growth, important though that is. This road will not enable more people to live in Canberra. Its function is to give faster access from the Federal Highway to the freight terminal at the airport. Elle Lawless said it exactly right.

And its not JUST about the Canberra Dragon either. There are lots of other plants and animals living with the Canberra Dragons, including ones it depends on, like the Canberra Raspy Cricket (aka Coorooboorama canberrae).

Folks if you want to save the planet and biodiversity, there are going to have to be some sacrifices and the northern road to the airport should be one of them.

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