Endangered tuart trees delay school opening

Chloe FraserSound Telegraph
Education Minister Sue Ellery. COVID-19 (coronavirus) update Press Conference at WA Parliament House, Perth WA. 17 APRIL 2020
Camera IconEducation Minister Sue Ellery. COVID-19 (coronavirus) update Press Conference at WA Parliament House, Perth WA. 17 APRIL 2020 Credit: The West Australian, Danella Bevis The West Australian

The construction of Wellard Village Primary School has hit a bump in the road with Education Minister Sue Ellery last week revealing the $22.6 million development requires additional environmental approvals.

The site of the future primary school is partly covered by vegetation, including tuart trees, which were recently added to the Federal Government’s threatened list of ecological communities.

Ms Ellery said given the sensitive nature of the site, a closer look at the vegetation was needed.

She said the Federal Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment now needed to grant approval to clear the vegetation to allow the school to be built.

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A department spokesman said tuart trees were listed as part of the Tuart Woodlands and Forests of the Swan Coastal Plain critically endangered ecological community on July 4 last year.

He said more than 80 per cent of tuart woodlands and forests had already been lost and that they were eligible for listing as critically endangered.

“The department ensures that every project is subject to a rigorous and transparent assessment of the proposal in accordance with the requirements of the EPBC Act,” he said.

The assessment process has begun and is anticipated to be completed by mid-2021, pushing the school’s expected opening to 2023 instead of 2022.

Ms Ellery said she was “deeply disappointed” but it was important to “do the right thing”.

“I am deeply disappointed that we can’t get this school happening sooner but understand that we need to respect the Commonwealth process and our unique local environment,” Ms Ellery said.

Baldivis MLA Reece Whitby said while it was unfortunate the school’s opening would be delayed by one year, the extra process of approval could not have been foreseen.

“The school plans already include many trees being retained and I have asked the education minister to investigate if more trees can be retained on the site,” he said.

City of Kwinana councillors voted in support of the development at their September 9 meeting.

Mayor Carol Adams said though councillors approved the development before the new requirements were announced, the City supported preserving the existing trees at the site.

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