Meet the man behind the crucial finch review
QUEENSLANDERS can be reassured the review into Adani's Black-Throated Finch Management Plan (BTFMP) will be done to the highest standards and with impartiality according to review leader, Professor Brendan Wintle.
Professor Wintle is heading an independent panel of six conservation and ecological experts to undertake the review that could decide the fate of Adani's Carmichael mine.
He took a break from his family holiday in the Victorian mountains talk to The Morning Bulletin yesterday morning.
Earlier in the week, members of the LNP and Adani representatives expressed their concerns as to whether a review under Professor Wintle could be conducted fairly due to his involvement with the Threatened Species Recovery Hub, which had been associated with an anti-coal agenda by some critics and the media.
Early criticism arose from the State Government's selection of an independent panel as opposed to an in-house review for which they have the specialist expertise.
Professor Wintle has taken steps to to quell those concerns and provide more detail as to how the review would be carried out and what it aimed to achieve.
He said referring such a review to an independent panel was common practice in cases such as the BTFMP review and he had personally been a part of similar review processes in the past, however he said he was not at liberty to discuss the details.
"It is not uncommon for government departments to seek external expertise to review environmental plans," he said.
"Having a sound plan for the management of an endangered species is a reasonable and standard requirement for such projects.
"Independent reviews can bring great benefits to a project by identifying opportunities to achieve win-win outcomes that were not previously thought of.
Prof Wintle assured the review would be carried out with impartiality as the overall welfare of the black-throated finch was the focus, not political agendas.
"I am leading the finch review independent of the Threatened Species Recovery Hub - this review is not part of the Hub's work," he said.
"It's pretty simple - if experts do a bad job of a review, it reflects directly on those experts and they don't get asked to do reviews again.
"All of the people on this panel have a long history in doing these kinds of reviews with a very high level of expertise and professional integrity.
"The panel of six people all have extensive experience in impact assessment, conservation assessment and assessing management plans."
"We know there are finch habitats on the open cut footprint and the underground footprint.
The black-throated finch has a very acute conservation status and is listed as endangered at State and Federal levels.
It's range has retracted by 80% range since 1976.
"Species like this can plummet into becoming extinct quite rapidly," Prof Wintle said.
Despite a review having already been conducted and approved by the Federal Government in 2018, Prof Wintle said another review was needed to make doubly sure the impact on the finch's welfare was being adequately considered and planned for.
"Each level (of government) has to be satisfied that it's done everything in it's power to ensure that this project will not result in the extinction or even a decline in the species," he said.
"We don't want the existing review to prejudice our review, but when the time comes we will be cross referencing against other assessments that have happened throughout the life of the proposal so far.
"If we reach different conclusions, we will be very clear about why."
The details of the plan outline how the proponent's plan to manage the finch's fragile population and habitat within the proposed mining area and will come under scrutiny from the review.
"We're reviewing the BTFMP which contains all of the details how the finch and its habitat will be managed within the mining lease and in adjacent areas," Prof Wintle said.
"We will assess whether this plan does what it needs to do."
"We need to be confident that the project won't lead to a dramatic increase in extinction risk of the Black-Throated Finch."
The announcement earlier in the week of Professor Wintle's appointment was met with criticism from government figures and the proponent.
Prof Wintle has assured that the review is in safe hands.
"The people on this panel are world leaders in the area of conservation management and conservation science," he said.
"You couldn't put this review in better hands."
Professor Wintle said he hoped the review would ensure the best management possible for the threatened black-throated finch and that it was being conducted with help and transparency from the proponent.
"At the end of this review, I would hope that the government, the proponents and the people of Queensland will have certainty about the implications of this project going ahead so they can make the right sorts of judgements and make sure the plan is as good as it can possibly be," he said.
"We haven't had any problem getting access to all of the information we need...we're happy so far.
"I'm confident that Adani will be forthcoming with any information we need to help provide our advice."
The review is expected to be submitted by late February.