When advised that threatened frogs had been spotted in the project site, a foreman remarked: “We don’t need to worry about those frogs. They don’t live here. They’re on holiday and are just passing through!” It was a novel response and worth a shot. But with strict environmental standards being applied to construction projects and a high level of scrutiny, the presence of a threatened species is a critical constraint for any project.
To add to the challenge, it is possible that additional ecological constraints will be identified once construction commences. Flora and fauna surveys are undertaken during the planning and approval stages of projects, but this doesn’t mean that there won’t be any hidden surprises. On road upgrade projects in northern NSW, there are examples of threatened frogs being found just prior to the commencement of clearing and flying foxes setting up camp in the middle of the new road alignment. In such instances, there is pressure to rapidly develop practical management strategies and obtain endorsement from regulatory authorities, so that construction can proceed without significant delays. Experience shows that it is important to bring in ecologists with expert knowledge of the specific species. This helps to quickly identify appropriate management approaches and provides regulatory authorities with the confidence to provide sign-off in a shorter timeframe.
It’s not just critters that are mobile and can pop up unexpectedly. Many who have worked on construction projects in the Northern Rivers will have heard of the aptly named Hairy Jointgrass. This threatened species dies off in Winter and then re-emerges later in the year. The trick is that it can re-emerge in a different location or with an expanded footprint. Management of this grass is particularly challenging because project approvals typically only allow for removal of a certain area of threatened species in a
If a threatened species is present within a project site, management of the species will typically be the key focus of regulatory agencies. It is critical that a comprehensive survey of the site is undertaken to accurately identify the extent of the species. All the hard work to appropriately manage the species in one portion of the site will be for nought if the species is inadvertently impacted in another location where it wasn’t thought to exist. The good news is that even elusive and unpredictable animals such as frogs, platypuses and flying foxes can be successfully managed within construction sites when there is good teamwork and communication between the construction crew and the environment team.