Current Conservation Issues

Orchids of Ferndale Primary School bush block

Toodyay road verge clearing

Jandakot airport extensions


Jandakot Airport Holdings (JAH), the owner of the 50 year lease of Jandakot Airport, is proposing to clear 167 ha of native vegetation on the site which has a total area of 622 ha. Some of the clearing (30 ha) is to construct a fourth runway running approximately east-west to take the congestion off an existing east-west runway. Clearing (33 ha) is also proposed to extend the existing three runways. Approximately 96 ha is proposed to be cleared for a commercial development consisting of business, office, bulk retail, showroom, warehouse, storage and café uses. Some of this commercial development is proposed to be located under the flight path of the proposed 4th (and existing 3rd) runway. A further 6 ha will be cleared to provide southern and northern access to the commercial development. This proposal is currently being assessed by the Commonwealth Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA). 

The airport already contains a 132 ha commercial precinct for business, office, bulk retail, showroom, warehouse and storage uses, of which 53 ha remains to be cleared. There is some dispute whether the 79 ha that was cleared (and the 53 ha remaining to be cleared) was done with appropriate authority and permission. Currently there are only 5 developed businesses/buildings in this area with about 90% of the area vacant, and further tenants are uncertain or in some cases not going ahead with earlier plans. 

The areas proposed to be cleared are Banksia woodland in very good to excellent condition. The Banksia woodland contains approximately 225 Grand Spider Orchids (Caladenia huegelii) and 4 Glossy Leaved Hammer Orchids (Drakaea elastica) and provides habitat and food for Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos which roost and feed (but do not nest) in the area. Of these, 40 Caladenia huegelii and all 4 Drakaea elastica are in the area proposed to be cleared. Each of theses species is on the WA State and Commonwealth Endangered Species list. 

The current proposal is an improvement over an earlier proposal (2007/2008) where 201 Caladenia huegelii and all 4 Drakaea elastica were in the area to be cleared. The earlier plan proposed to translocate the 200 Caladenia huegelii into a 10 ha “Orchid Park” which was surrounded by warehouses and show rooms, and was remote and not connected with the nearby Ken Hurst Park. This proposal was not approved by DEWHA, in part because of submissions opposing the proposal by the WA Native Orchid Study and Conservation Gropu (WANOSCG), the Friends of Ken Hurst Park, the Urban Bushland Council and others.  

The current proposal includes a continuous corridor between Ken Hurst Park and the northern area of the airport containing most of the Caladenia huegelii. This was on the basis of a comment from WANOSCG and the Friends of Ken Hurst Park that a corridor was required between two of the three largest populations of Caladenia huegelii to allow movement of seeds and pollinator between the two areas.  

In the current plan, it is proposed to translocate the 40 Caladenia huegelii and all 4 Drakaea elastica from the area to be cleared. Their ultimate destination is the preserved orchid area adjacent to Ken Hurst Park, but this will be via Kings Park where the Botanic Gardens and Parks Authority is offering (for a price) to undertake more research on successful translocation techniques and other research on propagation from seed, survival of seedlings, and conservation of the Thynnid wasp pollinator and its host plant.  

As part of the current plan, JAH also propose to revegetate and manage for up to 10 years an area of 90 ha of cleared land to the north of the airport on land owned or managed by the City of Canning. This area was mined for sand in the 1970s and is almost totally devoid of vegetation. The City of Canning received a bond from the previous owners/lessees to cover the cost of revegetation, but it has been claimed that this is totally inadequate to cover the current cost of revegetation. The City of Canning was therefore very pleased that JAH have offered to spend more than $7M revegetating the land at no cost to the City, and have recently given in-principle approval for JAH to do so. JAH propose to spread topsoil stripped from the land on the airport site onto the old sand mine, and to water the area as required to enable tubestock and broadcast seed to survive. The intent is to return this area to as close to the pre-existing Banksia woodland as possible, but there is no talk of re-introducing any orchids into the site, least of all Caladenia huegelii and Drakaea elastica. As well as the difficulties in getting any plants to survive in a harsh sterile environment, they will be subject to other disturbances as the area is used by off-road vehicles.  

With the revegetation of the sand mine areas, JAH proposes to manage over half of a proposed conservation area of approximately 657 ha including Ken Hurst Park, the revegetated sand mines and the conservation area within the Airport under a conservation management plan. However, correspondence from the City of Melville who own Ken Hurst Park outright has indicated that the City of Melville has refused to enter into discussions with JAH over this matter, and are not considering handing over any responsibility, shared or otherwise, for the management of Ken Hurst Park to JAH. 

WANOSCG, the Friends of Ken Hurst Park, the Conservation Council of WA, the Wildflower Society of WA and the Urban Bushland Council are totally opposed to the proposed development for the following reasons: 

  • the proposal would result in clearing 167 ha of irreplaceable biodiversity
  • the remnant  vegetation is one of the largest areas of contiguous bushland in the region. Clearing such an area is another (large absolute) incremental loss of bushland
  • the remnant vegetation to be cleared is in very good to excellent condition and is recognised as regionally very significant through its listing as a Bush Forever site
  • the amount of vegetation cleared is a significant proportion of the remaining habitat for the Grand Spider Orchid, the Glossy-leaved Hammer Orchid and Carnaby’s Cockatoo
  • the loss of 167 ha of habitat would significantly impact on the Grand Spider Orchid, the Glossy-leaved Hammer Orchid and Carnaby’s Cockatoo, as well as other orchids, plants and animals
  • the hierarchy of environmental management is avoid, reduce, mitigate, offset. Caladenia huegelii and Drakaea elastica are best conserved in-situ. Translocation and research should not be undertaken before all other avenues to protect them have been exhausted
  • the number of Caladenia huegelii and Drakaea elastica present on the site and that would be removed is not known with a sufficient amount of certainty to allow the impact to be assessed adequately. No recent adequate survey has been undertaken
  • the proposal for translocating orchids should be the last resort and this is not necessary since the orchids can be conserved in-situ
  • the offer of revegetating 90 ha of totally degraded bushland as an offset is inadequate. An offset of at least 668 ha would be required at an offset ratio of 4
  • there is a huge risk in not being able to restore the sand mines to the same condition as the existing bushland on Jandakot Airport even with the proposed reticulation
  • JAH should offer an offset for already having cleared 79 ha of Banksia woodland before attempting to offset clearing of more Banksia woodland
  • joint management of Jandakot Airport bushland and Ken Hurst Park is not supported by other stakeholders
  • the level and sincerity of public consultation is inadequate
  • the clearing of 167 ha of remnant vegetation is for commercial gain and is not in the public interest or for the common good when 79 ha has already been cleared for this purpose and there are already commercial developments at nearby Cockburn Central and along nearby Armadale Road
  • there are other feasible and much more environmentally appropriate alternatives.

Actions undertaken by the Friends of Ken Hurst Park and WANOSCG include the following: 

  • preparation of submission opposing the earlier proposal in January 2008
  • preparation of submission opposing the latest proposal in April 2009
  • organised meeting between JAH and WANOSCG, Friends of Ken Hurst Park, Wildflower Society and Urban Bushland Council in February 2008
  • prepared a press release welcoming DEWHA rejection of JAH proposal in March 2008
  • prepared a submission opposing a minor amendment to the JAH Master Plan proposing to construct a southern access road in November 2008
  • personal meeting with Managing Director of JAH and Director of Ascot Capital (the owner of JAH) in March 2009
  • organised and attended site visit with WANOSCG, Friends of Ken Hurst Park and Wildflower Society to portion of Jandakot Airport bushland in April 2009
  • written many letters to the Commonwealth Minister for Infrastructure
  • meetings with the Department of Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts
  • written many letters to the editor of the Melville Herald and Melville Times, with several lead articles and photographs on site
  • ABC TV interview
  • attendance at public meeting called by the City of Canning to present JAH revegetation and road construction proposals, and spoke about real reasons for JAH offers
  • letters to the Mayor and all Councillors of the City of Melville, City of Canning and City of Cockburn expressing opposition to JAH proposals
  • attendance at City of Canning Council meetings where JAH revegetation and road construction proposals were tabled, and speaking to the Mayor and Councillors
  • attendance at several meetings of the Jandakot Airport Chamber of Commerce who are also opposed to the commercial development because JAH have neglected the aviation side of their operations
  • proposing and researching possible location of JAH commercial development on the already cleared sand mines rather than on the uncleared bushland, taking into account the fact that portion of the sand mines and Jandakot Airport are on the Jandakot Groundwater Mound Priority 1 and 2  protection zones
  • meeting with the Federal Member for Tangney, Dr Dennis Jensen, to discuss the issue and potential alternative site for commercial development
  • making two written and several verbal requests for permission for WANOSCG and the Friends of Ken Hurst Park to visit the site to look at or for the orchids. JAH have refused all but one request. The latest request (1 June 2009) was refused despite earlier assurances (March 2009) that permission would be granted on the pretext that the current proposal is now being considered under the EPBC Act and it is thus inappropriate that any site visits occur (which is totally incorrect and preposterous)
  • preparing a Vision for the Jandakot Airport bushland and Ken Hurst Park.

Eddy Wajon 

WANOSCG Conservation Officer

Convenor, Friends of Ken Hurst Park

June 2009