Lismore Labor candidate Isaac Smith has defended his decision to vote against a motion to express concern about the Pacific Highway upgrade between Ballina and Broadwater, which critics say will decimate the northern rivers koala population.
The NSW Greens environment spokesperson Dr Mehreen Faruqi MLC, and Greens Candidate for Ballina, Tamara Smith, have accused Labor of being inconsistent on the issue.
‘Just a few weeks after Labor announced support for a koala national park, two Labor councillors in Lismore yesterday (Tuesday) voted against a motion to write to the NSW Premier Mike Baird, the relevant ministers, and local members, expressing concerns about the impacts of the proposed Pacific Highway upgrade route between Broadwater and Ballina,’ they said.
‘The route chosen by the Government for the Pacific Highway will deviate significantly from the current alignment, cutting through the middle of a nationally significant Koala habitat.
‘The Greens believe a different route should be chosen that delivers an upgraded Pacific Highway and protects koalas.’
Ballina candidate Tamara Smith said the proposed route would ‘lead to the localized extinction of this iconic species and ignores broad community support to save this threatened species’.
‘How can the community trust the ALP leader’s commitment to consider an alternate highway route, if it’s being ignored by Labor Mayor’s and state candidate’s here on the North Coast?
‘This precious koala population needs to be preserved, and while the ALP make cheap promises to grab a headline, the Greens are unreservedly calling on the State Government to shift the highway route to preserve this koala corridor.
‘The Labor Party need to come clean with the community about whether they really will step in to save Ballina’s koalas.’
When pressed on the issue yesterday, Cr Smith said however that it was a Ballina issue that should be left to the people of Ballina.
‘I’m very concerned about koalas and was very happy to support the national park down near Coffs Harbor.
‘You’ll see further announcements from Labor on how we will support the environment and biodiversity ‘during the election campaign’, he said.
In response to criticism on social media, Cr Isaac questioned the usefulness of writing a letter to the premier.
‘For me this was out of our area and writing a letter does not translate into strong action,’ he said.
‘We need to find way to improve this project for the koala population and this motion would have no effect on stopping the road or assisting our koalas.’
Mayor Jenny Dowell, also a Labor member, stated that she voted against writing a letter because ‘it’s not in our LGA’ and that the alternative route being proposed by campaigners was ‘not feasible’.