Tweed Shire Greens Cr Katie Mine has offered to consider higher density housing at the controversial Kings Forest development if it means reducing the number of koala habitat trees that would have to be removed. Cr Milne says says no koala management plan will work when ‘the development footprint is fundamentally wrong’.
The campaign to soften the development footprint of the massive housing estate has been ramped up with concerned residents urged to lodge objections to the project with the state planning department before it’s too late. Submissions for the first stages of the estate for 4,500 homes close next Wednesday 25 January, while Tweed Shire Council meets this Tuesday at 10.30am to consider its staff report on the development, with planners recommending various changes.
Campaigners warn that unless more koala habitat is preserved, the endangered marsupials may hit the extinction tipping point.
Only about 140 koalas now survive east of the Tweed River, according to recent wildlife surveys, many of them around the King Forest development site and the adjoining Cudgen Nature Reserve.
Last weekend about 70 people attended a meeting at Cabarita to harness opposition to the scale of the project, by Leda Developments, labelled a ‘mini city’ which, if approved, will eventually house around 15,000 new residents.
Environmentalists want the development footprint reduced and a variety of other koala-friendly measures put in place before the project’s final approval. They include a 40km/h speed limit in the estate, a ban on domestic dogs and the acceleration of a tree-planting program to help replace the many koala food trees which will be felled during construction.
The developer has promised to plant 20,000 eucalypts and establish wildlife corridors through the vast housing estate as part of a buffer zone.
Leda has also said would dedicate 350 hectares to public ownership, 178 hectares of which will be added to the Cudgen Nature Reserve, some of which was illegally cleared earlier this year, an offence being investigated by the environment department.
Leda, owned by billionaire Bob Ell, was implicated by environment minister Robyn Parker in the massive illegal clearing of vegetation along 300 metres of a creek in the reserve, but the property group claimed workmen bulldozed trees and other vegetation by accident.
Landcare group Friends of Cudgen Nature Reserve have ask for a guarantee Leda will erect wildlife fencing around the estate and plant the koala food trees before any work begins.
Secretary of the group, Chris Core, said the timing of the conservation work was not clearly spelt out in the concept plan.
‘We are just asking for clarification as to when the tree planting and fencing will be done. It will be of little use if it is not completed before the earthworks begin and the native fauna flee,’ he said.
‘Erecting wildlife fencing would also help prevent any future accidental clearing of the nature reserve.’