THE endangered Booroolong frog that Barnaby Joyce blamed for Chaffey Dam's delayed construction, and regularly holds up as an example of "green tape" gone mad, has become locally extinct in his home region.
When researchers surveyed the Peel River above Chaffey Dam in 2013, they found more than 2300 Booroolong frogs. In December last year when they searched the same area, they found two.
The Isis, Cockburn and Barnard rivers were also surveyed and a total of 43 frogs were found, which were taken to Taronga Zoo for a breeding program, which is hoped will save the species.
The ongoing drought has been blamed for their local demise.
Mr Joyce said the Chaffey Dam extension was nearly derailed by the frog, because it delayed construction and the government threatened to withdraw $15 million in federal funding.
Mr Joyce said he intervened to push the project through and stood by his decision.
"I had to work with the reality, which was if we didn't extend Chaffey Dam, Tamworth would have run out of water," Mr Joyce said.
Mr Joyce has often joked about his battle with the Booroolong frog and referred to it as a metaphor for "excessive bureaucracy".
"I was always of the view that a dam would mean more water and as frogs live in water, wouldn't they be happier with a bigger dam?" Mr Joyce said in 2016.
However, Tamworth ecologist Phil Spark, who helped rescue the last remaining frogs, said if the then-Agriculture and Water Minister had looked in to the issue, he would be aware the Booroolong frog lived in flowing streams, not large bodies of water.
There are northern and southern populations of the Booroolong frog - however, Mr Spark said the northern population may be a separate species.
"They are genetically different, and there is ongoing genetic work to see if they are different enough to be named separate species," he said.
"It's ironic that just as it could be named a new species, the northern population has been all but wiped out."
Mr Joyce said he was often viewed as an "environmental evil" by his critics, a label he rejected.
"I've never said pull down every tree and kill every animal you come across," Mr Joyce said.
"My favourite past times are bushwalking and botany, I'm not a philistine in these areas. In so much I do in politics, people see me in a binary view - I'm either good or bad.
"But nothing in politics is that simple. I don't care what box people put me in, I try to work rationally."
Mr Joyce said he was an of advocate applying environmental rules on a case-by-case basis.
"It's always better to do things on an individual level - the issues for Weabonga are not the same as Guyra or Dorrigo," he said.
"A lot of these decisions don't protect the environment, they breed cynicism."