Endangered Gouldian finch returns to Lee Point, prompting campaign to stop Defense Housing Australia development - petsitterbank

Endangered Gouldian finch returns to Lee Point, prompting campaign to stop Defense Housing Australia development

Nestled in a coastal corner of Darwin’s northern suburbs lies a patch of bushland that’s become the new home of a tiny, endangered bird.

Local twitchers believe the Gouldian finch migrated north to Lee Point in search of better habitat and breeding grounds.

Flocks of Gouldian finches have made a surprise appearance at Lee Point, a largely undeveloped suburb in Darwin’s north. (Supplied: Kacie Austin)
Colorful Gouldian finch on grass stem.
The tiny birds have been known to travel several kilometers a day to find water.(Supplied by Greg Postle)

In doing so, it’s become the mascot for a grassroots movement to stop a multi-million dollar Defense housing project.

At a recent rally against the project in Darwin’s city centre, the colorful creature was plastered over T-shirts and hand-painted signs.

Graeme Sawyer from Biodiversity Watch said the unique creature has “really got its way into people’s hearts because it’s so colourful”.

“It’s a bird that has an enormous public profile and is super cute.”

A man sitting on a bench, near several other people, and holding a sign with a painted picture of a finch.
A grassroots campaign has been building to protect the bird’s habitat. (ABC News: Michael Franchi)
A crowd of people with protests at their feet standing outside and listening to a man speaking.
Graeme Sawyer spoke during a Gouldian finch rally in Darwin earlier this month. (ABC News: Michael Franchi)

Once found right across northern Australia, the most recent count of the endangered finch estimated there were fewer than 2,500 left in the wild.

No stranger to the spotlight, the finch has not only featured in a David Attenborough documentary but has also become the main attraction for twitchers in Darwin this dry season.

Mr Sawyer said he believed thousands of people have visited the area to catch a glimpse of the elusive bird.

“We estimate that over that period from sort of May till the end of August, there was over 10,000 visits to that space, and about 48 per cent of those would have been tourists,” he said.

People walk on a path with forest on either side.
Dozens of people are waking up at the crack of dawn to see the Gouldian finch, where they are congregating at Lee Point. (Supplied: Ian Redmond and Gayle Laidlaw)

Defense project approved in 2019

Defense Housing Australia describes the proposed 800 house development as a “thriving residential community of Defense families, the local community and visitors”, across 131 hectares of zoned residential land.

The first stage of clearing has already taken place.

“It is envisaged that a main street precinct will offer a tourism activity center containing restaurants, cafes, hotels, self-contained apartments and retail shops,” according to the Defense Housing Australia website.

Lee point destruction
Land clearing at Lee Point has started, to make way for 800 homes. (ABC News: Roxanne Fitzgerald)

The Defense Housing Authority argues the development will provide “much needed” accommodation for Australian Defense Force members and their families.


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