From bushfire to housing developments: the fight for nature continues

From bushfire to housing developments: the fight for nature continues

Manyana could be a test case for the Federal Environment Minister's use of Australia's key environmental law, in the wake of last year's devastating bushfires.

Watching the rainforest blow up like an atomic bomb was the moment I realised that 2019-20 was no ordinary bushfire season - in all my years as a volunteer firefighter, I had never seen anything like it.

The Currowan mega-blaze was apocalyptic - birds were falling from the sky, their bodies littering the ground. It was an unprecedented environmental disaster.

About 96 per cent of the surrounding Conjola National Park was burnt.

Much of that was considered critical habitat for vulnerable and threatened species like the greater glider, grey-headed flying fox and swift parrot.

We managed to save a parcel of bushland, this patch of land is full of life and yet it is at risk of being destroyed.

About 20 hectares of forest would need to be cleared at Manyana in the Shoalhaven for the development by Ozy Homes, which wants to build 180 houses on the land.

These fires were an extinction event.

As many as three billion animals are estimated to have died or been displaced in Australia's bushfires; it's not known how many perished in the Currowan blaze, but what I saw was horrific.

After losing so much and fighting so hard to save our village, we are determined to save this sanctuary.

It contains species that the federal government has a responsibility to protect under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

There have been more than 20 conservation dependent species previously recorded on site, and much of the biodiversity information that the developer relies on is up to 15 years old.

This is more critical since the bushfires.

The Act is under review and a report into it is scathing. Independent reviewer Professor Samuel's key message repeated throughout his report was that: "The environment is not sufficiently resilient to withstand current, emerging or future threats, including climate change. The environmental trajectory is currently unsustainable."

Over the coming months, Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley will decide whether or not to approve the development.

Environmental lawyers say her decision could set a precedent and will be a test of whether Australia's key national law will protect threatened species in bushfire-affected areas, or not.

Ozy Homes recently provided more assessment documentation about its plans, with the public able to provide comment until July 16.

Bill Eger is a volunteer firefighter and president of the Manyana Matters Group.

This story From bushfire to housing developments: the fight for nature continues first appeared on The Canberra Times.