Regent honeyeater threatened by Kurri Kurri industrial estate
A regent honeyeater. Picture by Tony Britt-Lewis, Taronga ZooAussie Backyard Bird Count set to take off
THE controversial Hunter Economic Zone industrial estate could drive the regent honeyeater to extinction, a research paper has found.
The paper, published in the journal Australian Field Ornithology, said the zone, near Kurri Kurri, ‘‘contains one of the most important breeding habitats for this extremely rare bird’’.
Head of Conservation at BirdLife Australia, Samantha Vine, said development of the site would be ‘‘catastrophic for this imperilled species’’.
“We are now certain that regent honeyeaters rely on this site for food and to breed,” Ms Vine said.
The paper’s lead author, Mick Roderick, said the most significant and known regent honeyeater breeding in recent times occurred in the Tomalpin woodlands, which is planned to be developed as part of the estate.
“In 2007-08, observers recorded 20 nests and about 100 individual birds,’’ Mr Roderick said.
‘‘With fewer than 400 adult regent honeyeaters remaining in the wild, this represents about 25 per cent of this species’ global population.”
he paper said regent honeyeaters were numbered in the thousands in the early 1900s.
Ms Vine said the birds’ breeding habitat in the Tomalpin woodlands ‘‘must be protected to ensure their ongoing survival’’.
“They face increasing pressures from mining developments, climate change and pests, and depend on this area as a refuge,’’ he said.
The regent honeyeater is listed as critically endangered.
The population had declined by more than 80per cent over the last three generations, which was about 24 years, BirdLife Australia said.
The organisation has urged the federal government, based on new information, to revoke the industrial estate’s development approval.
It wants Cessnock City Council and the NSW government to find an alternative site for the industrial estate.
The state government once predicted the 870-hectare site would provide more than 10,000 jobs and attract $2billion in investment. But it was plagued by financial collapse, political donations’ controversy, a parliamentary inquiry and environmental battles.
Ecologists had warned it would have a big effect on threatened plants, wildlife and ecological communities.
Botanical surveys found diverse eucalypts there, including at least two species not previously known to science.