WestConnex Habitat Extension, New Reality

I have been looking at the site of the habitat extension most weeks in the last few months. I noticed insufficient progress on the Marsh Street Habitat and I noticed that there was absolutely no work getting done on the Southern Frog Corridor. It has been difficult to get information on what was going on. I was informed that the Southern Frog Corridor has been cancelled and that the completion of the Marsh Street Habitat has been pushed out to April 2018. It took some more effort to get the reasons explained. But anyway, I finally got the following email from the RMS Environment Manager:

Dear Rasmus,

Thank you for your email. I would like to take the opportunity to provide some further clarification.

I note that the Environmental Impact Statement which was the subject of the approval did not provide for a 'frog corridor' from the new Marsh Street ponds to the habitat in the Kogarah Golf Course. There was no reference in the GGBF Plan of Management provided in the EIS (Appendix K of the Biodiversity Assessment (Appendix S) of the EIS) to a frog corridor as a mitigation measure. The EIS required the establishment of the new Marsh Street frog habitat area which is what is currently under construction.

A potential frog corridor was included in an update to the Plan of Management in December 2016, however this was inserted following a misunderstanding of a comment from the Department of Planning and Environment (DPE). The matter was clarified with DPE & OEH in meetings this year and the requirement for a frog corridor has been removed in the latest revision of the Plan of Management (currently with DPE). As per my email the updated Plan of Management includes a commitment to review the need for a frog corridor in the event that ongoing monitoring indicates existing GGBF are using the cycleway. This approach was endorsed by DPE, Office of Environment and Heritage and the team of GGBF frog specialists engaged with developing the plans and habitat creation and captive breeding plan.

I would like to re-iterate that the new Marsh Street habitat area is an enclosed habitat with frog fencing around the perimeter. As such there is no connectivity / frog corridor requirement to connect to other potential habitat areas. The reason for the enclosed area is that the purpose of the habitat area is to assist in the re-establishment of an effective Arncliffe population, initially separate to an existing population. Once the population has been established effectively then I understand further management options will be discussed with DPE, OEH and the GGBF specialists in relation to providing further connectivity, however this will not be for a number of years following the introduction of tadpoles and metamorphs into the new Marsh Street habitat.

The reason for the extension to the timeframe for construction of the frog habitat area is that the Contractor has identified pockets of soil contamination (largely asbestos) which are being appropriately managed by the Contractor. The management of the soil contamination has delayed the completion of the ponds. The soil contamination does not provide a risk to the establishment of GGBF in the area. As the ponds are being constructed for the release from the captive breeding population and the frogs in the captive breeding program won't be bred until the next breeding season from September 2018, the Department has permitted an extension to the construction timeline. The extension was endorsed by both the Independent Environment Representative and the project herpetologist and has no impact on the projects breeding program.

If you have any further queries, please do not hesitate in contacting me. I note that I will be on leave from 16 December to 7 January (inclusive).

Regards

Ashley Robinson
Environment Manager Motorways
www.rms.nsw.gov.au
Every journey matters

Roads and Maritime Services

My Comments on this News

Slippage in Marsh Street Habitat Timeline

Some sort slippage in the timeline could probably be justified although I am not convinced that nine months is reasonable. But at least there is progress on the habitat (see pictures), so it is probably of no long-term consequence. Below is a picture of a covered pile of asbestos at the habitat site. I took it on October 15.

Cancellation of the Southern Frog Corridor

I view the cancellation of the Southern Frog Corridor as much more serious. Without connectivity between the Marsh Street Habitat and the existing habitat, we essentially end up with a fragmented habitat. Also, the GGBF is a wide-ranging frog and can travel more than a kilometer in a day or night. It is quite unnatural to confine such a species to a relatively small area as the Marsh Street Habitat.

I am not exactly reassured by the prospect of further discussions around connectivity years down the track. It will be too easy then for the decision makers to say they discussed it but it would be too hard or too expensive, and anyway, it was promised by a different bunch of people.

Milestones

MilestoneWhenSource
Geotechnical and contamination investigations completed Recent relative to January 13, 2017 email from Community Relations
Start of work approved On or before June 2, 2017 email from Community Relations
Site clearing started Some time in the period from June 26 to June 28, 2017 email from Community Relations, verbal communication from Community Relations on June 28 and my photos from June 24 and June 29
Interruption of work due to contamination
Recommencement of work on the habitat Some time from September 18 to September 29 September 19 conversation with a Sydney Motorway Corporations person (with whom I was in the same meeting for an unrelated matter) and my own observation (it wasn't obvious when I looked the weekend after September 19 but more obvious the next weekend).
Excavation work for the ponds In the week ending October 22. My observation and photos that weekend and the previous weekend
Completion of the Marsh Street Habitat April 2018 Email from RMS