Conservationist Dr Glen Ingram says glossy black-cockatoo food trees have been cleared on Macleay Island

CLEARED: Land on Florence Street on Macleay Island which has recently been cleared to reduce fire hazards.
CLEARED: Land on Florence Street on Macleay Island which has recently been cleared to reduce fire hazards.

SCIENTIST and conservationist Glen Ingram says the council has cleared hundreds of glossy black-cockatoo food trees on Macleay Island, destroying the vulnerable birds' habitat.

Ironically, the clearing comes as the council appeals to residents to take part in planting sheoaks as part of a plan to save the species.

The clearing has been aimed at reducing fire hazards but the casuarinas are the glossy black-cockatoo's sole source of food on the island.

A Redland City Council spokeswoman said that clearing had followed an independent fire review by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.

"Routine vegetation reduction work is essential to help manage bushfire risks and protect lives and property, while minimising the impacts on native vegetation, animals and their ecosystems," she said. "Vegetation and debris was also cleared to allow access for QFES and council vehicles."

Southern Moreton Bay Islands Coastcare spokeswoman Leigh Abbott said over-clearing was also being done by private landowners in response to council-issued notices to clear vegetation that could be a fire hazard, or face a $667 fine.

Cleared land on Timothy Street on Macleay Island.

Cleared land on Timothy Street on Macleay Island.

Mrs Abbott said the warnings were clear that significant trees and protected vegetation should not be removed but some residents were overreacting.

"They are not just reducing the fuel load," she said. "They are knocking everything down. People are taking advantage and getting away with it."

Dr Ingram said the "concerted destruction of vegetation" was taking place during most animals' breeding season. "It is like living on islands of death," he said.

"Some owners are responding by taking the chance to clear fell their blocks, not complying with the development code. Others are just doing it out of panic, while council is into it with gusto."

Dr Ingram - a glossy black-cockatoo specialist who worked for the Queensland Museum - said clearing to reduce fire danger was understandable but there seemed to be no guidelines or understanding of eco-systems.

Cleared land on Timothy Street on Macleay Island.

Cleared land on Timothy Street on Macleay Island.

Mrs Abbott said island vegetation was extremely dry and fire was a concern.

"Do you protect trees and perhaps pose a fire risk?" she said. "It is a hard time to be saying there shouldn't be clearing but more care could be taken about where they are doing it."

Dr Ingram said many felled trees were black sheoaks which provided cockatoo food.

"The islands are good for the birds because of the commonness of these trees," he said. "Nesting birds are monitored every year by islanders."

Undergrowth clearing could also affect wildlife like blue-tongued lizards, goannas and bearded dragons.

The council spokeswoman said that council staff and contractors had inspected the area before starting work to minimise the removal or damage to significant vegetation.

"A qualified wildlife spotter was also on site to reduce impacts on local wildlife," she said.

"Residents concerned about the vegetation clearing program are urged to contact the council."

Dr Ingram said black she-oaks grew densely on many Macleay Island blocks.

"It is this density of food trees that has favoured this rare bird," Dr Ingram said. "People can hate casuarinas and allocasuarina because they have thread-like leaves and can look untidy but they are an important part of Australian ecosystems. They are often eliminated on private land because most do not have the required girth in council's guidelines for retention for compliance."

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