Clutching at straws – use of threatened species to stop coastal development

Dr John Thorogood1

1Frc Environmental, Cleveland, Australia


Species listed under the EPBC Act 1999 and similar state instruments are frequently cited in an attempt to thwart coastal development.  Threatened species and ecosystems are a particular focus of impact assessment, and of appeals against planning approval.

Whilst a sound basis exists for this practice, the use of threatened species in specific matters is at times morally questionable and potentially counter-productive, both in terms of the given objective and the credibility of threatened species as a concept.

This paper examines the use of the critically endangered loggerhead turtle in a recent matter before the Queensland Planning & Environment Court, and considers a range of related issues including: the availability of data, what reliance should be placed on broad-based policy and the published literature, what constitutes an expert, how is the quality of data assessed, and to what degree the likely effects of climate change should be taken into account.

This paper seeks to provide insights useful to broad range of practitioners, including: policy makers, resource managers, planners, scientists and lawyers.


John is one of the industry’s most highly respected marine ecologists / environmental scientists, with substantive experience spanning coastal, estuarine and marine assessment and management.

John has specialist skills and over 30 years practical experience spanning all Australian states and territories, Asia, the Pacific and Middle East.  John’s expertise encompasses survey design and analyses; reef, wetland and soft sediment ecosystems studies; water, sediment, biota interactions; and fisheries science.

Drawing on these skills, John has undertaken a diverse variety of projects relating to major infrastructure, resources, defence, urban, industrial, tourism and agricultural development.

John’s hallmark is the identification of key issues and the delivery of practical strategic advice based on a sound appreciation of the project’s overall objectives and constraints.

John has acted on behalf of the State, a large number of local authorities and indigenous land councils, and the private sector.  He is regarded as a valued strategist, inspirational leader, hands-on ecologist and effective communicator.