CLEARING at a privately owned wetlands near Eric Singleton bird sanctuary has been halted for now.
Planning minister Donna Faragher stepped in to stop any further clearing of native bushland late last week after visiting the site and meeting with locals and Maylands Labor MLA Lisa Baker.
Two blocks opposite the sanctuary are in line to be developed, one owned by the D’Orazio family which has largely been cleared and the other by the Carter family.
The WA planning commission granted approval for the D’Orazio block to be subdivided and says that paved the way for clearing to allow works such as geotechnical sampling.
But the scale of the clearing blindsided Bayswater council and about 2000 residents signed a petition calling for a halt to the project.
Following Ms Faragher’s intervention the sampling can continue, but more substantial works will require further approval.
Bayswater council had two opportunities to purchase the neighbouring Carter block, the first in 2010 when councillors unanimously voted against buying it. The sale wasn’t even raised for discussion.
In 2013 the Carters again offered it for sale.
Despite a new council line-up and a $3 million upgrade of the sanctuary looming, Bayswater staff declined the offer without putting it to councillors for a vote.
At this week’s council meeting Chris Cornish moved for all confidential documents relating to the land, including past decisions, correspondence with the owners and offers to sell, to be made public.
Town planner Greg Smith from the Bayswater Urban Tree Network says the council should’ve advised the WAPC to rezone the land as parks and recreation, preventing any housing developments.
Mr Smith says while he was working as East Fremantle council’s planner it was routine to ask the WAPC to rezone good quality land as it was cashed-up from the Metropolitan Region Improvement Tax. The MRIT was created to “finance the cost of providing land for roads, open spaces, parks and similar public facilities”.
“Why, in the past 10 or 20 years when council has been offered this land, why didn’t they recommend to the WAPC that the land be rezoned as parks and recreation?” Mr Smith asks.
He says it’s clearly good quality swamp, and likely better than Eric Singleton which needed the $3 million to bring it back to health.
On Saturday community members brought in ecologists Mike and Mandy Bamford for a rapid assessment of the fauna on the remnant Carter site.
Partly relying on previous studies, the Bamfords found three additional frog species to the four already recorded as living there. One they discovered was the quacking frog Crinia georgiana, which is only found in a few wetlands around Perth.
Four reptile species also live in the lake, and while most are common, the Bamford report states long-necked tortoises are declining elsewhere because a lack of nesting sites and fox predation has disrupted their breeding.
They also spotted a splendid fairy-wren, which is not on the list of 105 species that Birdlife Australia records as being present. The swamp’s also had sightings of both Carnaby’s and forest red-tailed black cockatoos.
The only mammal is the fox, and the waters appear to be free of fish, while the neighbouring Eric Singleton water has the pesky introduced mosquito fish which snacks on frogs eggs.
by DAVID BELL