Dead snails spark probe
THE discovery of four dead snails on sometimes swampy land at the back of Kingscliff has sparked a major investigation by the state government. The dead, extremely rare Mitchell's rainforest snails could have a major impact on future development in the area and even cost Tweed ratepayers millions of dollars in yet another court battle with developer Gales Holdings. Supporters of the snails say experts have estimated only 500 of the species still exist "on the planet". Mitchell rainforest snails share the Kingscliff land with the 2cm-long wallum froglet which has previously sat in the way of a supermarket development in the area. Tweed Shire Council officers called in the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change department, which includes the National Parks and Wildlife Service, after a local person appar-%ently found the dead snails drainage work had been carried out on nearby land. A spokesperson yesterday confirmed the department, at the request of the council, was carrying out an investigation into possible breaches of the Threatened Species Conservation Act at the site off Turnock Street. Businessman Dr Stephen Segal, whose company wants to build a supermarket in the area and is involved in a separate million-dollar-plus court battle with the council over development plans for the old Kingscliff sewerage treatment plant to the north-west, confirmed he had met with National Parks%officers at the site. He claimed large numbers of snails had died, but blamed the council for directing stormwater onto the land. "I facilitated access at the site but I refused to allow the council ecologist on because they have caused so much damage," he said. "They are land snails, not water snails. They die if there is inundation. Helping the drainage would help the snails." Dr Segal said he was "flabbergasted and angered" that despite agreement by experts acting both for the council and Gales Holdings that the snails were likely to become extinct on the site because of stormwater, nothing had been done to rectify the situation. He warned the "flooding" of his land was "part of the biggest damages action ever in the shire which is ongoing". "Our legal costs have been over one million dollars so far," he said. "It was Gales that discovered snails at Kingscliff. Gales brought this discovery to the attention of Tweed Shire Council and to the attention of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. "We've spent $100,000 on plans to restore the habitat of the snail. "The council has caused great destruction of snail habitat. The%library and library extensions were built over an area of snail habitat." Council officials were unavailable to comment yesterday.