Australian news, and some related international items

Rocket launches on the Eyre Peninsula wil damage the environment

Nature Conservation Society of SA fears Whalers Way rocket launch site will damage the environment   
Worry rocket launch site will damage environment
  The Advertiser  Clare Peddie, Science Reporter, The Advertiser, November 4, 2020

A proposed rocket launch facility at Whalers Way, on the tip of Eyre Peninsula, threatens vulnerable wildlife and coastal wilderness, conservationists say.

The Nature Conservation Society of South Australia is challenging the development, citing heightened fire danger, noise disturbance and land clearing, enabling the spread of feral predators and pests.

Society vice-president Rick Davies said the area was so special that it was protected under a legally binding heritage agreement, meaning it is be managed as a privately-owned conservation area in perpetuity. “We support a space industry in SA, but this is the wrong place for this development,” Dr Davies said.

With our country already seeing more large, uncontrolled fires, why would we allow a commercial firing range and all its propellant fuels in the middle of one of the best expanses of native coastal vegetation?”

The area is home to species at risk of extinction, including nationally vulnerable white-fronted whipbirds and the Eyre Peninsula southern emu-wren.

Dr Davies says these shy secretive birds require long unburnt vegetation and will be impacted both by both direct habitat destruction and associated industrial disturbance.

Coastal raptors such as vulnerable white-bellied sea eagles and rare osprey, which require vast hunting territories, will also be disturbed, he says.

The Eyre Peninsula Southern Emu-wren is endangered in South Australia. This male was briefly captured for research purposes and then released. Picture: Marcus Pickett

The State Government has given the Whalers Way Orbital Launch Complex major development status.

The company behind the development, Southern Launch, is now preparing a development application, including an environmental-impact statement.

Executive director Mike Damp expected those documents would be made available as part of the public consultation process early next year.

“Site selection took a long time and it was diligent; it wasn’t selected willy nilly or with disregard to the environment,” he said.

“Right from the outset, I want to dispel any inclination that you might have that we are prepared to ride roughshod over the environment.

“From the very beginning, we have been very mindful of the area that we are operating out of and we have, therefore, cemented into the bedrock of the company our biodiversity management strategy, so we intend to improve the conservation status of Whalers Way.”

The rugged coastline at Whalers Way, south of Port Lincoln on the Eyre Peninsula, including an osprey nest on a rocky outcrop. Picture: Marcus Pickett

A State Government spok­es­man said that the project would go through all required environmental-assessment processes.

“The sub-orbital launch facility will be one of two in the southern hemisphere – and presents enormous opportunity for growth in rapidly developing space sector,” he said.

“Projects like this will be critical in our state’s recovery from the global coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

But Shadow Environment Minister and deputy leader of the opposition Susan Close shares the conservationist’s concerns.

“I have serious concerns about the impact of this development on rare species and valuable habitat, and the risks it may pose for fire and damage to adjacent marine life,” she said.

“I urge the government to consider alternative locations which do not involve compromising environmental values and overriding existing protections.”

November 5, 2020 - Posted by | environment, South Australia, technology

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