Highway threatens rare native moth

The following comes from The Age newspaper, journalist: Adam Carey.

The critically endangered golden sun moth will lose scarce remaining habitat when a highway in western Victoria is widened from two lanes to four.

A state government environmental assessment of the planned Western Highway duplication between Beaufort and Ararat, west of Ballarat, found the road project would have a significant impact on the moth through habitat loss.

Nevertheless the project was approved by Matthew Guy, the Planning Minister, on May 20, provided work is done to mitigate the impact on the moth’s habitat.

The golden sun moth lives underground as larvae for two to three years and for up to four days once hatched, in which time it mates, lays eggs and dies. The moth cannot feed because it has no mouth. Ninety-five per cent of its habitat has been lost since European settlement.

Langi Ghiran

Langi Ghiran

Its critically endangered status puts it in the highest risk category for extinction, among other Australian animals including the orange-bellied parrot, expected to be extinct within five years, and the mountain pygmy possum, which lives on just three mountains in the Australian alps.

”Western Highway [duplication] phase two would have a significant impact on the golden sun moth through habitat removal, despite attempts to minimise this impact,” the assessment states. These impacts must be offset under state and federal laws.

Michael McCarthy, VicRoads director for the Western Highway Project, said a threatened species plan was being prepared to mitigate the effects of the habitat loss. The 38-kilometre stretch of highway to be widened passes through the Langi Ghiran State Park and will affect native temperate grassland, also listed for protection and the habitat of the golden sun moth.

Traffic volumes on the Western Highway have increased 5 per cent in the past three years, the state government says. About a third of the traffic is heavy vehicles.

The report states: ”There is an increasing problem of queuing behind slow-moving vehicles and additional costs borne by the freight industry through reductions in speed limits to improve road safety.

”Therefore duplication is intended to allow safe overtaking at all times and eliminate traffic queuing.”

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