Roads and Maritime Services will cover the cost of koala fences along some local roads in Ballina shire, councillors were told yesterday.
Ballina mayor David Wright said he had spoken with the project manager Bob Higgins who said the RMS would be covering the costs of the fences.
Three councillors had lodged a rescission motion for yesterday’s meeting that sought to overturn a previous decision that could have resulted in the council being responsible for some of the fencing costs.
Prior to the motion, however, Cr Wright told his fellow councillors of the update.
‘They (RMS) are going to fund protection measures along the new highway from Wardell to Coolgardie which will include 62 underpasses and 130 hectares of new koala trees,” Cr Wright said.
‘They will also be fencing the existing highway along the same area, as well as parts of Wardell Road, from Meerschaum Vale down to Wardell, sections of Bagotville Road, and a bit of the Bruxner Highway going up to Alstonville.’
Cr Jeff Johnson, a member of the Save Ballina’s Koalas group, said however that despite the assurances, it was still the belief of ecologists and the SBK campaign that if the highway deviation goes ahead as planned, it would lead to the extinction of ‘this nationally important koala population’.
‘Putting a highway straight through this population and fencing some local roads is totally inadequate in our opinion,’ he said.
‘It does highlight however just how important this population is that RMS is willing to spend tens of millions to offset the impacts of the highway.’
‘However they could simply construct the highway so that it doesn’t have any impact on the population (by sticking with the existing route).’
Cr Wright said however that the preferred route had been selected since 2006 and was unlikely to be changed.
‘They were never going to go through Wardell,’ Cr Wright said.
‘They’ve met all 32 conditions imposed by (Federal Environment Minister) Greg Hunt and it’s been signed off by the koala panel.’
Meanwhile, the Ballina Koala Plan, was submitted to Mr Hunt ten days ago, and it is expected to take at least six weeks for his office to consider it and respond.