Endangered birds’ habitat located at second prison site proposed for Westbury, environmentalists claim

A respected field naturalist who received an Order of Australia medal this year says she was “extremely distressed” to learn what she knows as the Westbury Reserve will be razed in favour of a second Tasmanian prison.

Sarah Lloyd has been visiting the Birralee Road site, about five kilometres from the northern township of Westbury, for about 15 years.

She has documented more than 30 species of bird, including endangered species such as grey goshawks, wedge-tailed eagles and masked owls.

Sarah Lloyd has documented more than 30 species of birds in the Birralee Road area in the past 15 years.(Supplied: Sarah Lloyd)

“It has dead and dying trees, it has a lot of fallen branches and logs on the ground, and it has really messy understorey,” she said.

“So, while most people might think it’s degraded forest it’s actually really important for a lot of bird species.

“I must admit I was extremely distressed to hear that they were building a prison on what I regard, in fact what I’ve always known, as the Westbury Reserve.”

Last week the State Government announced it had dropped plans to build a new prison on an industrial block along the same road.

Instead, Attorney-General Elise Archer said the $270 million project would be situated on thickly forested Crown Land just three kilometres further away from the town centre and without access to water, sewage or gas.

The original plans drew the ire of vocal Westbury residents worried about the potential impact on house prices and the township’s reputation.

They have this week indicated they were opposed to the new site too.

Tasmanian masked owl
The masked owl is one of the endangered birds Ms Lloyd has been documenting.(Supplied: Sarah Lloyd)

Speaking on Tuesday, Ms Archer said the Government was now doing its due diligence on the new site with plans to have the first stage of the Westbury prison up and running by 2025.

“This vital project alone will support more than 1,000 jobs and deliver an economic boost of $500 million to the region, according to the recently completed and independently conducted Social and Economic Impact Study,” Ms Archer said in a statement.

Greens MP Rosalie Woodruff wants the Government to go back to the drawing board.

Protestors hold signs
The Government bowed to pressure and relocated the prison after several protest meetings by Westbury residents, but opposition to the second site remains.(ABC News: Jessica Moran)

She noted the land was listed on the Government’s own records as purchased under the Tasmanian Private Forest Reserves Program, suggesting it was once assessed as having conservation values.

“There is no way this site is appropriate for a prison,” Dr Woodruff said.

“It’s appropriate to be protected as the reserve land it is already protected to be … it’s meant to be there for perpetuity.”

An Environment Department spokeswoman said the land had been reassessed about 10 years ago and found it was not needing protection.

“The site has been surveyed several times in the past decade … a preliminary assessment was conducted by DPIPWE prior to the announcement and no impediments have been found that would prevent the building of the prison on this site,” she said.

Ms Lloyd, a prominent member of the Central North Field Naturalists, said she and other members of the group would lobby the Government to find a new site that wasn’t “this special bit of bush”.

“We know based on other surveys around northern Tasmania that these birds are declining,” Ms Lloyd said.

“I just couldn’t believe that they could point their finger at a bit of Crown Land and probably not regard it as having any value at all.”

A pair of golden whistler birds in a tree
Ms Lloyd was awarded an Order of Australia medal for her observations on birdlife and other conservation efforts.(Supplied: Sarah Lloyd)

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Digital Cleanup Day: Declutter your devices to help the planet, urge environmentalists

Environmentalists are urging people to declutter their devices to help reduce their carbon footprints.

Let’s Do It! World, an NGO that began in Estonia, claim carbon dioxide emissions from internet use are comparable to those of the airline industry.

It is organising the “first-ever global” Digital Cleanup Day on 22 April.

The clean-up is part of celebrations for Earth Day, marking its 50th year of championing environmental protection.

“People don’t often realise that in the digital world there is also pollution that influences the actual environment,” said Let’s Do It! World.

“Almost all online activities increase our carbon footprint.”

“By deleting unnecessary documents, old emails, unused apps, duplicate and blurry photos, and videos that fill the storage of the devices, we become more aware of our own dirty digital footprint and are able to better organise our digital life,” says Anneli Ohvril, one of the Digital Cleanup Day’s project leaders.

“If each British adult would abstain from sending out a ‘thank you’ e-mail, we would conserve more than 16,000 tons of CO2 per year – equal to 81,000 flights from London to Madrid.”

A report by computer security company McAfee in 2009 found that it takes the same amount of energy to deliver billions of spam e-mails as two million US households use in one day.

NGOs estimate data repositories will make up 20 per cent of the world’s energy consumption by 2025.

“This is a cleanup that anyone can do, you don’t even have to get up from your couch,” added Heidi Solba, president and head of the NGO.

“There are a predicted 3.6bn Cloud users, if each and every one of them would transfer 1GB of data to external hard drives, that would mean a total of 3.5M TBs being freed up in the data centres.”

The Let’s Do It World Network say that organising your digital workspace can have positive psychological effects, as well as an environmental impact.

“The world is in lockdown, many countries have imposed severe restrictions of movement on their citizens who have to face weeks between their house walls,” said Heidi Solba.

“I am sure they have already cleaned their possessions, now it’s time to turn attention to the digital clutter of their lives.”

Let’s Do It! World network also organised the “largest-ever clean-up action” in 2019, in which 21 million people turned out to clean 180 nations worldwide.

With many countries enforcing social distancing restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, commemorations for Earth Day have been forced online.

“Amid the recent outbreak, we encourage people to rise up but to do so safely and responsibly – in many cases, that means using our voices to drive action online rather than in person,” added Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network, in a statement.

The United Nations have also underlined the importance of the 50th Earth Day, and have stated that “the need to take climate action has remained as urgent as ever“.

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