Byron Shire Council has long been committed to ensuring that the Byron bay bypass project is carried out in a way that reduces impacts to a range of species known to occur in the project area, including the Mitchell's Rainforest Snail (MRS).
The preferred bypass route includes a section of MRS habitat. While there have been claims that using the rail corridor as a bypass option would have had less impact on vegetation and habitat, the rail corridor would have impacted a similar portion of wetland.
Offsetting the impact to the MRS and making up for the loss of biodiversity is a priority for Council. Our Biobanking agreements for the project, set out in 2015, are allowing us to protect and regenerate 44.5 ha of similar vegetation This includes 35.8 ha at Wallum Place and 8.65 ha of preferred MRS habitat at Lilli Pilli. We have extensive records showing Lilli Pilli is prime habitat for the MRS.
We are also committing an additional $87,000 towards regeneration of 17.5 ha of potential MRS habitat at Sunrise Boulevard Bushland, Butler Street Reserve and Midgen Swamp Reserve in Suffolk Park.
When we prepared our Biobanking documentation in 2015, independent ecologists didn't find any MRS in their surveying. However they factored in the assumption that the species were indeed still present in the area. The rigorous environmental approvals that followed, document this.
Pre and post clearing surveys
Prior to clearing vegetation a significant search and relocation effort was undertaken to ensure the protection of any MRS in the area. A team of independent ecologists spent more than 600 hours surveying the area for snails. The surveying began two days prior to clearing works, and included day and night surveys, when the MRS is most active. The ecologists remained on site for over 3 weeks during Stage 2. At least one ecologist was present during all stages of the clearing.
Prior to tree removal, all roots and hollow logs were thoroughly checked. Tree bark was stripped back and the ground was scoured. Leaf litter was checked by hand and examined. It didn't stop there - once the vegetation was removed it was then examined again. Fallen logs were checked over, leaf litter was sorted through again and mulch was investigated.
The intensive effort of the onsite ecologists was hugely successful. They found and safely relocated 163 MRS.
The majority of these MRS were found in the Stage 2 impact zone. However 23 were found near Burns Street in Stage 1.
Every time a MRS was found it was given a general health assessment. Details including it's age and size were documented and a geotag was recorded at the location it was found. They were then carefully relocated at least 20 meters away from the impact area into adjacent wetland habitat home to the local population.
Clearing and surveying is now complete. A detailed post clearing report is available on our website. No snail mortalities were recorded.