Little bird could cost Palmer big

PUP BOSS: Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal mine has received a $1 million bill to protect the black-throated finch.
PUP BOSS: Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal mine has received a $1 million bill to protect the black-throated finch. Warren Lynam

THE endangered black-throated finch has ruffled some feathers recently, with Clive Palmer's Waratah Coal mine receiving a $1 million bill to protect the bird.

Delivered by the Federal Government, the bill is set to nest with another $3 million from mega mine proponents in Central Queensland.

Waratah Coal will claim about 4000ha of the Bimblebox Nature Refuge, home of the finch among many other species.

A spokesperson from the Palmer United Party said the project had gone through a rigorous approval process, spanning the past five years.

"As part of the Environmental Impact Assessment, Waratah Coal undertook a comprehensive assessment of black-throated finch on and around their mine site," the spokesperson said.

"No black-throated finches were detected during the extensive target survey program.

"However, habitat for black-throated finch does exist on the project site."

The spokesperson said Waratah Coal had to provide offsets for the black-throated finches and had worked closely with state and commonwealth governments in doing so.

But for Paola Cassoni of Glen Innes station, 50km north west of Alpha, the $1 million bill doesn't even begin to cover it.

"Offsets will not work," Mr Cassoni said. "They simply allow developments to continue in habitats for threatened species and reduce the total amount of habitat available.

"It takes 200-plus years to grow the eucalypt species the black-throated finch uses to feed in and nest in, so creating new suitable habitats in a reasonable time frame is not possible."

She said there were around 20,000 of the birds in the region.

"The black-throated finch is also found at the future Carmichael mine site and other properties in the Galilee," Ms Cassoni said.

"We may single the black-throated finch out, but the extensive clearing in the region to pave the way to nine mega mines will make sure that hardly any habitat will be left for the future survival of other species that inhabit the region."

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