The Richmond River Keeled Snail photographed by John Morrison at Byrrill Creek.
The Richmond River Keeled Snail photographed by John Morrison at Byrrill Creek. Supplied/John Morrison

Tale of the dam snail

AN ATTEMPT to stop the proposed Byrrill Creek Dam by claiming an extremely rare snail lives there has fallen flat after Australia's top snail expert identified the mysterious mollusc as a “fairly common” snail.

Campaigners against the dam, which is intended to cater for Tweed's future water needs, had hailed the reported finding of a rare Mitchell's rainforest snail on the site of the proposed dam wall as a reason to stop the project.

The rare and endangered snail had already scuttled a $400 million proposed supermarket and residential development planned by Gales Holdings beside Turnock St in Kingscliff in 2005.

The latest finding was made by a five-year-old at the back of bush garden in the area to be flooded by the dam and “identified” by the boy's wildlife photographer grandfather John Morrison.

But yesterday, Australia's foremost expert on land snails, Dr John Stanisic, who has been dubbed “the snail whisperer” by an ABC documentary and worked for Gales Holdings, looked at photos forwarded by the Daily News and declared it was not the endangered species.

“It is a related species, the Richmond River keeled snail,” Dr Stanisic said. “That's fairly common in the Border ranges area”.

Mr Morrison said it didn't really matter if the snail was not rare. He said scientists should be the ones to “decide if it is a suitable place to build a huge water tank rather than politicians”.

Tweed Mayor Kevin Skinner said he always expected anti-dam campaigners to come up with a rare species.

“This was always going to happen,” Cr Skinner said. “If the Mitchell's snail is not endangered enough, they will find something else.”

Cr Skinner said thorough environmental studies would be done whether Byrrill Creek Dam was built or the option of raising the wall of Clarrie Hall Dam was pursued.

Another strong backer of the Byrrill Creek Dam, Cr Warren Polglase was dismissive of the discovery.

“It's really amazing how people find all these things that have never been there before,” Cr Polglase said.


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