Residents of Noosa say they are devastated after witnessing the ‘arm of destruction’ knocking down trees at a popular feeding ground known for one of Australia’s rarest cockatoos.
Locals say oak trees, which are the only plant species that black glossy cockatoos eat, were among the vegetation felled on Tuesday.
The glade was to make way for the first stage of UnitingCare’s retirement home and retirement village development at Sunrise Beach.
Maxine Hitchens arrived at the Grasstree Court wooded block early to witness the bulldozing and said it was a “very distressing” situation.
Ms Hitchens backed her 11-year-old son Spencer’s campaign for Save Sunrise Glossies, which he documented on camera.
A Change.org petition has attracted over 62,000 signatures.
“If they destroy this habitat, they will go extinct locally but probably further away,” she said.
“We begged them not to develop and do a land swap and all our voices were ignored.
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“We come up against brick walls. No one will listen to science. We are in a biosphere. We should do better than that.
Ms Hitchens said watching the destruction unfold was triggering “eco-anxiety” among people passionate about protecting native species.
The glossy black cockatoo is listed as vulnerable in Queensland and it is unknown how many are left in the wild.
Volunteers who took part in a “Bird Watching Day” in 2021 spotted 164 glosses (but possibly as many as 220) across Queensland.
A third of these were counted in Noosa and 88% of those at one site.
Black glossia have a very restricted diet, feeding only on the seeds in the cones of oak trees (Casuarina and Allocasuarina) and only on selected individual trees, according to the Glossy Black Cockatoo Conservancy.
“They will return to the same food tree over and over again, often ignoring neighboring trees that are full of cones, but these feeding patterns are poorly understood,” their website states.
A state government fact sheet says the species has “strong fidelity” to particular forage trees and returns to selected trees in consecutive years.
Ms Hitchens said last year 40 flies came to feed on the local oak trees and it was thought to be one of the most important areas for cockatoos in Australia.
UnitingCare has had development approval since 2011 for its phased retirement home and retirement village project.
The first stage is a residence for the elderly on 0.8 hectares where heavy machinery has prepared the ground.
The second stage is the retirement village on a larger property of five hectares.
“Blue Care is committed to providing the Sunrise Beach Aged Care and Nursing Homes District which will address a critical shortage of aged care beds in the Noosa area,” a spokesperson said. ‘UnitingCare.
“We have made a significant investment in the design of the enclosure and have obtained development approvals from the Council, States and Commonwealth Governments.
“We are now moving forward with the construction of Stage 1 of the compound, the residential aged care facility.”
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UnitingCare says it will compensate for 56 oak trees to be removed over the two stages by planting 1,000 fodder trees about 1 km away in the Girraween nature refuge.
These young oak trees have been propagated since 2018 from the trees on the site and are in various stages of growth.
One hundred and twenty grasses were also removed and transferred to the shelter.
“Hundreds of other Australian native seedlings will also be planted at the reclamation site.
“The development site is connected to the rehabilitation site by a green corridor consisting of national park and council-owned land dedicated to conservation.”
UnitingCare says it has also adapted the design of the retirement home for the elderly to retain more than 20% of the supply trees identified at Grasstree Court.
Of the 72 trees on site, 56 will be removed.
“In November 2020 we were also successful in obtaining permission from Noosa Shire Council to amend our development approval in response to the community’s request to organize the construction of the compound.
“Staged development means a reduction in the extent of vegetation clearing at any given time, which gives the trees we replant at Girraween Nature Refuge more time to mature.”
The Noosa Shire Council has approved the church’s environmental management plan.
The project was also assessed by the Australian Government’s Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment who determined that the project was not a controlled action under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Law).