Perth’s Highway Destroys Beeliar Wetlands

A stump of a 300-year-old Tuart felled at Beeliar Wetlands.

A $1.9 billion transportation upgrade plan, conceived and funded partially in 2014 by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s cabinet, and agreed upon by Western Australia’s (WA) Liberal Premier Colin Barnett, is destroying ancient wetlands. 

The Beeliar Wetlands, made up of two chains of lakes, are located in the southwest portion of the metropolitan city of Perth. 

These wetlands are priceless ecological jewels. They help reduce the impacts from storm damage and flooding, filter water entering the Swan River and recharge groundwater. The Beeliar Wetlands store carbon in Banksia Woodlands and its Paperbacks, ancient 300-year-old Tuart and 500-year-old Jarrah trees. It’s a globally recognized hotspot of plant diversity. All ancient forests are invaluable as climate stabilizers. 

The Beeliar Wetlands are also a vital warehouse for biodiversity including the endangered Carnaby cockatoos and the endangered southern brown bandicoots.

Concerned citizens, environmentalists, indigenous peoples, Greens and Labor politicians oppose this destructive project called Roe 8, an extension of the Roe Highway. 

Next month, there will be a state election on March 11. Voters are growing more discontented with the governing WA Liberals. 

“They are blowing $2 billion on a road to nowhere that doesn’t fix the problem … It’s going to mean a massive bottleneck in East Fremantle,” WA Labor leader Mark McGowan said. 

Since December 2016, more than 30 protesters have been arrested in the Beeliar Wetlands. Local residents have valid health concerns; once the forests are gone, the noise and air pollution from Roe 8 traffic will skyrocket. 

Last week, a critical flaw in traffic modeling was uncovered. Roe 8 underestimates the number of trucks that will use the road by 16,500. The existing noise management plan is invalid. 

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam told the senate that asbestos has been uncovered, dust suppression is non-existent and native fauna management is bordering on criminal negligence. One egregious example is trapping and removal of endangered southern brown bandicoots occurring as little as 90 minutes before bulldozers tear the forest apart.

For months, the Greens have been asking the Liberals if Carnaby cockatoo surveys were conducted. The Liberals have failed, so far, to produce one survey.

In the meantime, the city of Freemantle’s council has passed a motion to support fundraising concerts to help pay the legal costs of protesters against the Roe 8 extension.

The senseless destruction of nature and the unparalleled ability of the ancient Beeliar forests to help cool down metropolitan Perth will come back to haunt its citizens. The Climate Council’s latest report shows the number of heat wave days in Perth has already increased by 50 percent compared to the heat waves during the period between 1950-80. Extreme heat is projected to increase in the Perth region (and across the entire continent), with significant increases in length, intensity and frequency of heat waves. 

It’s time for Perth, and all cities globally, to protect their ancient climate stabilizing forests and wetlands, not pave them and elevate temperatures even higher in the Anthropocene: The age of climate instability. 

Support Save the Beeliar Wetlands. 


Earth Doctor Reese Halter’s upcoming book is “Save Nature Now.”