Queensland investigates suspected clearing of critically endangered black grevillea | Australia news

Queensland environment authorities say they are investigating the suspected illegal clearing of a “significant portion” of a critically endangered plant species in the state’s Granite Belt region.

The plant, black grevillea, was listed as “critically endangered” by the Queensland government last year after a submission from a local conservation group. The known world population of the plant is 1,149 mature plants.

The group that championed the listing, the Stanthorpe Rare Wildflower Consortium, last week discovered an estimated 300 plants cleared at two sites.

In a statement, the state Department of Environment and Science said it was in the early stages of an investigation but that a significant portion of this species’ population had been impacted, and plants head been destroyed at two important sites at Thulimbah, near the Queensland-New South Wales border.

The department said it expected to have a better idea of the extent of the damage later this week.

Under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act, a person convicted of taking protected plants without authorisation could be fined $400,350 or sentenced to two years in prison.

The secretary of the Stanthorpe Rare Wildflower Consortium, Liz Bourne, said members of the group had discovered the damage last week.

The group called for authorities to take strong enforcement action.

“We estimate in total something like 300 plants have been destroyed, or 20% of the existing population,” Bourne said. “One section of this council road reserve has been completely cleared.

“We immediately alerted the Southern Downs regional council, who have issued a stop-work order on construction until further investigations can be undertaken.”

Bourne said the black grevillea was unique to the Granite Belt and survived in only a few, highly fragmented sites; on road and rail reserves and private properties.

The plant was “a beautiful sprawling shrub” with holly-shaped leaves and black flowers.

“Although it has been listed as a threatened species under both the state and federal conservation legislation for more than 20 years, it has never had a recovery plan nor been the focus of a conservation program or regular monitoring,” Bourne said.

The conservation group compiled a “very detailed nomination” to the state last year, seeking to have the plant’s listing raised to endangered, including conducting extensive surveys across the Granite Belt. The road where plants were destroyed had the highest numbers of any location.

Queensland gazetted the “critically endangered” listing in August. The federal government is yet to raise its own “vulnerable” listing.

Bourne said the group had been lobbying the council for bushland management officers to monitor development that could impact the species but had not been able to obtain funding.

“This listing shows just how threatened it is and this recent destruction highlights what can happen to an endangered species if conservation legislation and proper processes are ignored,” Bourne said.

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