The on-line and handwritten petition presented to Tweed shire Cr Barry Longland at the 18 February 2016 council meeting contained 174 Pottsville signatures, not nine as incorrectly estimated by him in his letter in Echonetdaily ated 22 February.
The petition is about the future of our precious Australian iconic koalas, our international tourism drawcard, which is a global issue.
The total of 33,955 signatures collected from 73 countries around the world in 6½ weeks is therefore very relevant to what is happening to our koalas locally.
The Tweed Coast Koala Habitat Study 2015 (p2) acknowledges that ‘the Tweed Coast koala population remains at high risk of extinction’.
This study indicates that the Black Rocks/Pottsville Wetlands koala population is ‘relatively stable’; however, this simply means that it is at the same level of decline as the previous study in 2010.
According to leading ecologist and koala expert Dr Steve Phillips, 30-60 per cent of the Pottsville Wetlands koalas may have perished in the Christmas Day 2014 bush fire, and that it is not uncommon for there to be no evidence of koala mortalities in a fire of such intensity.
Eight known Black Rocks koalas have been affected by stress-related disease and/or death. These facts indicate that the Black Rocks/Pottsville Wetlands koalas are not ok.
The revegetation of the Black Rocks sports field has been recommended by Dr Phillips ‘because of its location and importance as a central hub for koala movement’. A role of the Threatened Species Conservation Society Inc (TSCS) is to progress the advice of the experts. It is therefore unacceptable to TSCS that Cr Longland has voted against this advice:
• He has ignored council’s Koala Advisory Committee recommendations by voting to leave the koala protection gates at the Black Rocks sports field open during the day, and then by voting to remove them (even though council had spent ratepayers’ money installing them only 4½ months prior).
• His decision to remove the gates was not based on expert advice from Dr Phillips, who has stated that a koala grid should be installed in conjunction with, not instead of, the existing koala protection gates while they are left open during the day and the sports field is used for recreational purposes.
• He has refused to support a council report into the suitability and efficacy of a koala grid prior to its installation.
• He has progressed an industrial-like men’s shed at the Black Rocks sports field even though ecologist Dr Steve Phillips states: ‘The increasing development pressure being placed on the sports field locality is paramount [tantamount] to an abrogation of council’s responsibilities to koala conservation in the Tweed. The recent issue of the Men’s Shed in particular was/is – in my view – little more than a Trojan Horse intended to establish a development footprint within the grounds, and so increase the perceived importance of the site for human-themed activities.’
• He has refused to support deferring approval of the men’s shed development application until the findings of a study providing evidence that noise adversely affects koalas is published.
The Threatened Species Conservation Society believes that this is not a good track record for a councillor who was voted in on a promise that we would get ‘policies that ensure our natural assets are preserved’ and that ‘I am keen to protect koalas and have them thrive’, especially at a location where gene diversity and dispersal is so critical to the survival of koalas on the Tweed Coast.
Dave Norris, president, Threatened Species Conservation Society
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