Transport hub gets green light provided rare plant gets protection
Plans to convert a defence site into a freight hub in Sydney's south-west can proceed, provided developers implement strict conditions to protect a rare flowering plant, the Land and Environment Court has decided.
The discovery of 370 individual Hibbertia fumana plants - a species last documented in 1823 and long thought extinct - threatened to stall development of the $1 billion-plus Moorebank Intermodal Terminal Facility.
The court imposed conditions on the project, which will be finalised in about a week. According to the earlier agreed conditions, Qube, the developer, will be required to develop a Hibbertia species survey plan to assess the number of individual plants within the rail corridor.
A disused rail spur traversing the Southern Boot Land must also be removed and remediated.
Once rehabilitation is complete, the developers are to the seek Office of Environment and Heritage approval to include sections of the remediated land as part of a biobanking agreement, according to the earlier conditions.
Knowledge of the critically endangered plant's re-discovery was withheld from the Planning Assessment Commission when it was considering approval of the industrial shipping container facility.
“[Without] the courage of our client [Residents Against Intermodal Development Moorebank] and the legal expertise of the Environmental Defenders Office, a rare and spectacular plant species ... may have slipped quietly into extinction," David Morris, chief executive of the EDO, said.
Qube had challenged the community's right to even be heard in court, the EDO said.
"This is the importance of public interest environmental law personified and demonstrates the effectiveness of merits review rights in protecting the environment and improving decisions,” he said.
A spokesman for Qube said that Planning Minister Anthony Roberts had been asked to compile the amended conditions based on what the parties had put forward.
While the company welcomed the court granting consent for the project it would wait for the final conditions before providing a more detailed public response, he said.