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2 September, 2020

Government spends $70K fighting wallabies

In documents obtained exclusively by The Express (Mareeba), it has been revealed that the Queensland State Government spent nearly $70,000 fighting a wallaby relocation program.

By Phil Brandel

Shari Ager with one of her rescued wallabies

In October 2017 Shai Ager heard about the number of wallabies that were being killed in and around the Captain Cook Highway near Trinity Beach and started the Agile Project.

The aim of the project was rehabilitating injured wallabies and relocating others away from the highway.

The QLD Department of Environment and Science (DES) initially awarded the Agile Project a relocation permit, but a couple of days before the relocation started DES retracted the permit, claiming it was awarded ‘erroneously’.

Shai then took DES to Queensland Civil Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) fighting the reversal of their decision.

Being a not for profit group Shai represented herself, standing up against a barrister that had been hired externally by the government.

On May 1, QCAT found in favour of The Agile Project. In Right to Information documents lodged by The Express, it can be revealed that legal costs came to over $66,600 dollars using barrister Kasey McAuliffe-Lake from Alfred Lutwyche Chambers in Brisbane.

This cost was for the use of external counsel only and does include any time spent by the government’s internal legal counsel.

Money that Shai said could have been better spent protecting animals. “I wish they had spent that money on saving animals rather than fighting us,” Shai said

“In the time that we have been fighting DES, over 1000 wallabies have been killed by cars or dogs, DES could have spent the money protecting the animals.

“We won’t even spend half of that on relocating the wallabies if they hadn’t fought us in court for so long the wallabies would have already been moved.”

In a written statement from the Department of Environment and Science.

“In 2017, the Agile Wallaby Project applied for a Damage Mitigation Permit to translocate a large number of agile wallabies from the Trinity Beach area in Cairns,

“As the environmental regulator, the Department of Environment and Science (DES) has a responsibility to ensure the safety and welfare of our native animals,

“The Agile Wallaby Project’s application was initially refused because DES considered it had not adequately addressed the requirements of the legislation and regulations,

“Subsequent information provided by the Agile Wallaby Project through the QCAT review process was considered by QCAT in making the final determination,

“It is standard practice for government departments to engage external providers such as barristers who have expertise in specific legal areas where matters are being contested.”

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