Photo of the bulloak jewel butterfly.
Photo of the bulloak jewel butterfly. Contributed

BUTTERFLY EFFECT: Could this bug stop Inland Rail?

A SMALL and endangered butterfly found in the Leyburn area could  play a pivotal role in dictating where the upcoming Inland Rail would run.

The bulloak jewel butterfly, measuring just 2.5cm across and found in only three locations across Queensland, was part of the submissions from farmer advocacy group Friends of Felton to the Yelarbon to Gowrie Project Reference Group.

The reference group was set up to give the affected community a chance to discuss and provide comments on the final path of the Inland Rail through Queensland, with four options on the table right now.

The two most contested proposals are either through Millmerran or the Felton/Leyburn valley, which Friends of Felton argued would drive major public infrastructure through prime farming land.

FOF committee member Ian Whan said while the proposed routes would be scored initially, environmental issues like the endangered butterfly could play a role if two routes came down to the wire.

Friends of Felton committee member Ian Whan.
Friends of Felton committee member Ian Whan. Bev Lacey

"They're looking at one of several criteria, and this is one that has come up," he said.

"I'd like to think that this whole proposal will be decided on technical issues, particularly the speed of the journey and cost considerations.

"If the scores turn out to be very close, and there are only two, it'll be determined by more obscure, complex things like the butterfly."

The reference group will meet on March 9 at Felton Hall for an information meeting from 6.30pm, while public submission for the route proposals will be up the Department of Infrastructure website within weeks.

The Felton route was not considered as an option until September last year, when it was discussed in a report by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation.

Mr Whan said he considered the route through Millmerran as the most logical option, due to the Gore Hwy running through the area. But he was not confident it would be picked.

"(Millmerran) was always going to be the route initially, and this other track has only come out of woodwork since that SMEC Report in September," he said.

"It's just logical to keep it Millmerran. I'm not confident - it's still up in the air. I wish I could be confident but I can't."

While the Inland Rail route proposal had stirred up discussion, Groom MP John McVeigh said he was still concerned residents weren't informed enough on the project.

He cited the number of letters to his office discussing anxieties with the project as a sign more exposure was needed.

"People are concerned and I'm worried that despite that reference group's communication and media over recent months, some residents may be unaware potential corridors are being reviewed," he said.


Scientific name: Hypochrysops piceata

Conservation Status: Endangered in Queensland and ranked as a high priority under Department of Environment and Heritage Protection

Appearance: With a wingspan of just 25mm, the male's wings are dull purple, while the females are pale blue. 

Found: Spotted in just three locations between Leyburn and Goondiwindi

Locations of the Bulloak jewel butterfly in Queensland.
Locations of the Bulloak jewel butterfly in Queensland. Atlas of Living Australia

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