Airport puts thousands of turtles at risk

Photo: Kate Reid

In small dams across western Sydney, hundreds, if not thousands, of turtles and other wild animals are at risk of dying as sites are cleared to make way for development.
It is the hidden story behind a Sydney that is growing quickly and losing much of its natural open space areas.

Shane Davies and Kane Durrant, from Turtle Rescues NSW, believe not enough is being done to protect the native wildlife at the development sites of the Western Sydney Airport and surrounding road upgrades.

“When you look at the airport site by the maps that the government put out, it shows maybe 16 dams on this site, and they’re the bigger dams,” Mr Davies told the Weekender.

“But when you look at the big picture, and you look at all the little dams, there are heaps of them, they don’t even come up on the map.”

At the future development site for the airport in Badgerys Creek, the pair believe there are about 200 small dams in the area, each that could be home to between 20 and 50 eastern long-necked turtles.

Turtle rescuers Kane Durrant and Shane Davies. Photo: Kate Reid

“We estimate between 8,000 and 10,000 eastern long-necked turtles on this site, and that’s not including all the surrounding areas where the roads are getting built,” Mr Davies said.

“That’s just this area here, it’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Sydney.”

Mr Davies, who grew up in Luddenham, said they’re also finding echidnas, an increase in dead kangaroos as well as snakes and eels in the area.

Mr Durrant added that through Environmental Impact Statements, developers are often only looking for endangered species and ignoring more common species.

Their concern comes as turtles are facing an aging population with few surviving babies born each year due to foxes raiding 95 per cent of their nests, and now development placing additional pressure on them with fears they could soon become at risk.

A Department of Infrastructure spokesperson said that a Biodiversity Construction Environmental Management Plan will be developed before main construction commences.

“This plan must include a protocol for decommissioning dams on the airport site, including relocating aquatic vertebrate fauna, including turtles, to areas of suitable habitat retained on the airport site or adjoining habitats,” the spokesperson said.

“Specialist services are expected to be procured to assist in implementing the Biodiversity CEMP.”

Mr Durrant said the pair are concerned after previous developments where they have heard similar claims, only to find upwards of 40 turtles in dams that were about to be filled in.

“We want to know that there is someone doing the job properly, or we’d like to do the job,” he said.

Turtle rescuer Shane Davies. Photo: Kate Reid