Dear Mr R,
Thank you for your correspondence concerning Defence Housing Australia’s (DHA) development at Lee Point, NT.
I appreciate the time you have taken to raise this matter.
DHA entered into an agreement with the Northern Territory (NT) Government (through its then Department of Lands, Planning and Environment) to enable the development of the project to meet the critical need to provide housing for members of the Australian Defence Force and their families.
In March 2019, DHA received approval under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), inclusive of an Environmental Impact Statement to identify all the mitigation measures to be met before, during and after the development of Lee Point.
The project will be delivered in-line with the Development Consent Authority approval and will meet all agreed environmental commitments, safeguards and recommendations detailed in the NT Environment Protection Authority assessment report.
I recently visited the site with the Member for Solomon, Luke Gosling, and representatives of DHA. Together with the Minister for the Environment and Water, the Hon. Tanya Plibersek MP, we are working hard to address concerns that have been raised.
The current approved plan includes the preservation of over 31 hectares of the land for conservation, with over 22 hectares being transferred to the Northern Territory Department of Environment, Parks, and Water Security to expand the Casuarina Coastal Reserve.
A further 9 hectares will remain as conservation land/protected under the Environmental Protection Authority regulations.
DHA has agreed to vary the conditions of the original approved plan to include:
- Modification of the original design footprint to provide a 50-metre buffer around nearby Gouldian Finch habitat. This land is in place around the waterhole where the Finches have been observed. This will allow the Finch to roost and forage in a natural environment that should allow it to flourish within the area. It will also significantly improve the beauty of the area for the new residents and other members of the community.
- The requirement for an Offset strategy to be developed that will compensate for residual impacts to the Gouldian Finch. These offsets will need to be identified before clearing takes place near the waterhole. That means that the Gouldian Finch should be better off overall.
- As you may be aware the Gouldian Finch has been sighted as feeding in Gamba Grass which is an invasive species and a Weed of National concern. The Gamba Grass will be cleared and replaced with native grass species that are useful foraging habitat for the finch but also benefit other native species.
- The original plan for the site meant that access to Casuarina Beach had the potential to disturb migratory birds who nest in the area. We have redesigned access points for Casuarina Beach to avoid impacts to migratory species.
- The requirement for a new Construction Environment Management Plan (CEMP) to be developed that will include measures to mitigate impacts to the Gouldian Finch and migratory species during clearing.
DHA will not be able to commence any clearing near the waterhole which the Finches are using until Minister Plibersek has approved the new Offset Strategy and CEMP.
DHA has undertaken extensive community consultation, with the project subject to an extensive environmental review and consultation with several NT Government departments and key community stakeholders.
This is a good example of where a project can be redesigned to avoid the most adverse impacts on matters of national environmental significance and result in a nature positive outcome.
In addition to community consultation, DHA consulted with and sought approval from the Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation in accordance with both Federal and NT law prior to seeking approval of this project.
Areas of cultural significance were raised by the Larrakia custodians and identified as remaining outside of the proposed development area.
DHA has also consulted the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority and confirmed that no registered sacred sites are located on the land.
In November 2021, Richard Fejo, Chairperson of the Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation wrote to DHA to confirm the Corporation’s support for the development.
It remains my focus on ensuring that DHA continues to actively engage with the First Nations custodians of Lee Point to ensure no sacred sites are disturbed.
Currently, DHA has paused clearing and other preparatory works for a further 30 days and will not re-commence stage 2 works within the development area until the report on areas of cultural heritage has been addressed.
Thank you again for expressing your concerns with this matter. I hope this information is of assistance.