I consider Byron Shire councillor Rose Wanchap’s claims about West Byron to be misleading propaganda. I find it extremely worrying that someone with such a poor grasp of the facts is in a position of power to decide our future. I can only try to redress the koala issue here.
Byron Council’s draft Coastal Koala Plan of Management (KPoM) identifies 12.8 ha of core koala habitat on West Byron, of which 4.6 ha has now been rezoned for development.
There were two surveys undertaken in 2010 for the developers that sampled part of this habitat. The one by Biolink (cited by Rose Wanchap) sighted two koalas (sex not identified). The Australian Wetlands survey sample sighted three koalas (one female).
Nobody has yet done a comprehensive survey of West Byron to identify the full numbers of koalas that use this habitat.
As noted by Dr Steve Phillips ‘The low number of koalas sighted does not necessarily reflect the actual number of koalas that are using the site and to imply that it does entirely misrepresents the local importance of the site to koalas’.
The Biolink report identifies koala records on the site back to 2007 (back to 1953 in the vicinity), and cites caravan park residents as regularly observing koalas, to conclude that there is a resident population.
It is outrageous for Rose Wanchap to intentionally misrepresent Dr Phillips’ Biolink report by claiming that the only koalas sighted were males and to pretend there is not a resident population. It is equally outrageous for her to imply that Biolink undertook a comprehensive survey.
With an estimated Byron coast population of only 240 koalas, the loss of any is significant, though the consequences could be far greater.
West Byron is a key link for movement between the north and west of Byron Bay. I am concerned that if this core koala habitat is cleared and surrounded by development then this link will be broken and surviving koalas to the west of Byron are unlikely to be able to survive in isolation.
Thanks to Wanchap’s misinformation and blocking of the draft KPoM we could lose the joy of seeing an occasional koala in our yards.
Dailan Pugh, Byron Bay