Story Steve Spencer, video Sharon Shostack
Councillors have voted to remove a stand of native trees along a koala corridor to make way for a community health centre at Pottsville after being warned funding for the project would be put in jeopardy without immediate approval.
The $2.5 million centre, to be built by the North Coast Area Health Service, is on council-owned land in Elizabeth Street, next to the Pottsville Neighbourhood Centre.
Greens Cr Katie Milne was the only councillor to vote against the project. She warned that the Tweed Coast’s koala population was at a ‘trigger point’ with just a few food trees determining whether the colony ‘live or die’.
‘Every single koala food tree is fundamental to the future of koalas. I don’t want to see a situation where the health of the community is in conflict with the health of koalas but that is what we are facing,’ said Cr Milne.
‘The Pottsville area has been identified as being critical to koalas. Taking out one tree is taking out the koala corridor.’
Cr Milne said a pledge by the Health Service to spend $50,000 on improving a koala crossing between Pottsville wetlands and an environmental park did little to lessen her concern, saying it ‘should be going in anyway’
Her suggestion that the decision be deferred for a month was cautioned against by general manager Mike Rayner, who said any delay would put the project at in jeopardy.
Mr Rayner said Tweed MP Geoff Provest had contacted the council to warn that the project could to be sent elsewhere if approval was delayed.
Cr Joan van Lieshout said she had been elected to provide services to ratepayers.
‘I have to stand up for people first. Pottsville has a lot of elderly people and young families,’ she said.
Plans for the centre include 16 consulting rooms and offices and more than 40 car parking spots.