A large number of emus have died hit by traffic on the Silver City Highway near Broken Hill, because locals say the new Broken Hill pipeline stopped their safe passage south.
Water NSW has denied that the pipeline construction has caused the deaths, and said they allowed gaps in the pipes left to be dug into the ground to allow animals to pass through. It said it took wildlife preservation very seriously in the pipeline’s construction.
But landholders says there was at least a 4km stretch with no gaps that meant emus, stressed and starved by the drought, and trying to head south to better feeding areas, were forced back onto the highway and quickly became roadkill.
Jodie Pearce said she was dismayed to see so many dead emus on the road next to the 270km pipeline, a major $467m government initiative to bring water from the Murray to supply Broken Hill’s water needs.
“Its distressing to see emus with broken legs lying on the ground after being hit by cars,” she said. “Emus aren’t the brightest birds and they have this urge to head south at the moment with the dry so the pipes laid on the ground block their way and they try and try to get through, they then give up and come back on the highway which is full of tourist traffic at the moment and get hit.” Some emus are so weak they can’t climb the mounds built for the pipeline. Mrs Pearce went to help one emu and it was so scared it flew up and over the pipe, but that was a rarity.
She said after initial complaints to the construction company some pipes were moved and some gaps were made – but the birds are not smart enough to find them. The drought has forced emus to move in their thousands to find food across the Western Division. Mrs Pearce is constantly dragging dead emus from her home water storage at “Sunnydale Station”, about 40km south of Broken Hill. Scores of dead emus have been found along the shoreline of the Menindee Lakes.
Even when the emus find water they die. “They come down to the water and gorge themselves and just keel over and die,” Mrs Pearce said. Mrs Pearce says part of the problem is that pipeline construction staff have on and off periods and are not always there to monitor the situation. They work to a roster of 21 days on, then seven days off.
Water NSW replied to The Land’s questions on the deaths of the emus along the pipeline construction zone.
“No one likes to see animals injured, but our investigation shows that at no time have emus and kangaroos been fenced in by the pipeline,” a spokesperson for WaterNSW said. “Large gaps were left when the pipes were strung out along the Silver City Highway.
“Drought conditions are unfortunately attracting wildlife to road verges in search of water across regional NSW, particularly in the State’s far west.
“The W2BH project team encourages all motorists to drive with care along the Silver City Highway as there has been an observed increase in fauna searching for water on the roadside due to the dry conditions.
“The W2BH project team has been cognisant of animal safety since the start of the project. Fauna management plans were put in place prior to the start of construction and include provisions for fauna passage and have experienced fauna handlers on the team. As part of the early planning for the project, a Flora and Fauna Assessment was undertaken to assess the potential impacts and develop safeguards during construction.
“The following protocols are in place should a workforce member hit an animal on the highway in a project vehicle, or happens to encounter an animal hit by member of the public:
- Project employees should contact their immediate supervisor via two-way radio to alert them of the incident.
- Project employees are advised not to attempt to render assistance due to the unpredictable behaviour of animals in distress and the potential for danger due to highway traffic. This advice ensures no employee, regardless of their caring intentions, is injured by an animal in distress or is at risk from highway traffic.
- The project’s professional fauna handlers, and traffic management teams working nearby, are advised of the incident.
- Traffic control measures are put in place so the project’s professional fauna handlers can venture on to the busy Silver City Highway and attend the animal.
- Expert assistance is provided to the animal, while also ensuring the safety of crew members and other motorists using the highway.
“Importantly, the project’s fauna handlers also work closely with the local RRANA (Rescue and Rehabilitation of Australian Native Animals) group, whose members have provided valuable advice and also cared for injured animals such as joeys.”