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Response to questions on Black-Throated Finch surveys

27 May 2021

Response to questions on Black-Throated Finch surveys

There have been media reports today about findings from the scientific studies that we conducted at our conservation area and the Carmichael Mine site, in Central Queensland, on the Black-Throated Finch before work on the open-cut mine began.

Unfortunately, these reports are misleading and have misrepresented the findings of these studies, particularly of surveys of finch numbers.

Surveys were conducted as part of the Black-Throated Finch Management Plan, which was approved in June 2019 and provides a range of practical actions to protect the finch.

The media reports quote results from a survey in 2019 and a survey in 2018. The results were quite different as they were conducted at different times of year, in different places, and when weather and seasonal conditions were different.

As reported by the media, a Queensland Department of Environment and Science spokeswoman said excavation for the mine had not occurred on the bird’s habitat, so it was not “seen as a cause for variation in the bird’s numbers”.

“There have been fluctuations in the bird’s numbers since 2012, likely due to factors like those mentioned in Adani’s [Black-throated Finch Management Plan] annual report, including climate variation and its effects on the bird’s food sources,” she said.

The purpose of these surveys is to build knowledge about the finch and are not intended to be comparative.

The full response provided to media on Tuesday is below.


Black-throated Finch Surveys

“Our third-party scientific experts noted that a decline in recorded numbers does not represent a decline in the local Black-throated Finch population.

“The surveys of the Black-throated Finch are conducted in different locations throughout the mining lease and the conservation area, during different seasons in the year, using different methods. So it is not correct to compare one individual set of survey results to another.

“As noted in the 2019 annual report, lower recorded survey numbers are likely the result of limited rainfall and unusually hot and dry conditions during the survey period.

“Survey numbers are recorded numbers only – they are not population estimates.

“On any given day the survey numbers can be affected by a multitude of factors such as inclement weather and timing of the survey.

“For example, if you go to a shopping centre on a Monday at 3pm, chances are you will see less people than if you went to the same shopping centre on a Saturday morning at 10am when more people are on a day off, however it doesn’t mean there are more or less people now living in the local area.

“One of the requirements of the BTFMP is to develop a population estimate from the results from the Black-throated Finch Management Plan surveys as well as our Black-throated Finch research project, using scientifically robust methods.

“This process is currently underway and will be completed within the timeframes stipulated in our Black-throated Finch Management Plan.”


Cattle Grazing

“In October 2020 the Queensland Department of Environment and Science requested we maintain a cattle stocking rate of 1 beast per 20 hectares.

“We subsequently increased our paddock spelling and constructed additional fencing to provide greater control over the movement of cattle across the 33,000 hectare property.

“The Carmichael mine is located on Moray Downs, a cattle property that has been in operation for decades.

“Our research shows that the Black-throated finch are attracted to the water sources in place for the cattle, such as water troughs, which help them to thrive in areas like our 33,000 hectare conservation area.

“Cattle grazing is an important part of our environmental management plans as it keeps our grass short, which reduces the chance of bushfire and also makes it easier for birds to forage.”