Koala and threatened species management plans by the developers of the Kings Forest township have been slammed as inadequate in an ecological review for the state government.
The review by Eco Logical Australia for the planning department, which is assessing the first stage of the massive development for 4,500 homes, says the plans lack much detail ‘leaving open the potential for inadequate management’ over the 872 hectares.
The review comes as the federal government considers the impact of the proposed new township southwest of Kingscliff on nationally threatened species, especially the Wallum sedge frog, under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.
The review is highly critical, saying that, overall, management measures by the Leda group proposed for the first stage to lessen impacts on threatened species, especially koalas and Wallum frogs, have ‘numerous information gaps and inconsistencies’.
The Sydney-based manager of the ecological firm, Robert Mezzatesta, told the planning department that the many plans for the development, including those for weeds, buffers, threatened species, wildlife corridors and vegetation, contained ‘an excessive amount of repetition of information’.
‘While a large amount of information is provided in the management plans, the relationship between the various documents and plans is quite complex and sometimes unclear. There is often a lack of detail within the plans that has left a number of issues unresolved, leaving open the potential for inadequate management over the site,’ Mr Mezzatesta said.
He said it would be ‘more practical to have each management plan presented as one document with separate sections for the different areas (groups of precincts) where appropriate’.
The review looked at measures to ensure the safe passage of koalas and other wildlife between habitat areas on the site but noted a proposed east–west wildlife corridor of a minimum of 50 metres wide had not been identified.
The review says wildlife corridors are essential for maintaining populations of threatened species at the site and the koala was ‘a keystone species in this respect’, but the lack of an east–west corridor was justified by the lack of koala habitat at the western end of the site.
‘However, other threatened species will benefit from the provision of an east–west wildlife corridor, particularly less mobile species,’ it said.
It said environmental protection zones (EPZ) across the centre of the site provided ‘good connectivity with Cudgen Nature Reserve to the east, which was vital for the conservation of the Tweed Coast koala population’.
But ‘if the east–west corridor is not provided, there are potential impacts on fauna movements and habitat connectivity at a regional scale, with reduced connectivity to the north west and south west of the Kings Forest site’.
Loss of habitat
It said council had noted that a small outlier koala population existed at Eviron and ‘such habitat connectivity would be reduced by the loss of habitat at the western edge of the development without the provision of a wildlife corridor’.
‘The safe passage of wildlife across the site has not been addressed for individual threatened species, but has focused on the movement of koalas throughout the site, the review said.
‘Therefore, it appears that provision of fencing and the measures outlined above and in the koala plan of management assumes to benefit all fauna species, but without any assessment to demonstrate this.’
The review also notes that the developer’s management plans do not mention 12 listed or threatened fauna species from a total of 27 documented in an environmental assessment of the site.
The review said the developer’s environmental assessment ‘fails to adequately assess the presence of aquatic flora and fauna and the likely impacts of the proposal on these aquatic ecosystems. The assessment should also include assessing the quality and quantity of stormwater and floodwater discharges into Cudgen Creek Estuary’.
Meanwhile the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is yet to decide whether to prosecute the developer for alleged unauthorised clearing and draining of parts of the Cudgen Nature Reserve adjacent to the site, despite investigating the issue for over eight months.
Authorities recently implicated Leda, owned by billionaire developer Bob Ell, in the massive illegal vegetation clearing in the nature reserve along Blacks Creek. But the property group claimed workmen bulldozed trees and other vegetation along a 300-metre stretch inside the protected area by accident.
Greens MP Cate Faehrmann last year launched a scathing attack in parliament over the illegal clearing, saying that if guilty, the property mogul should be hit with the most severe penalty available. Ms Faehrmann said Mr Ell and his company had a history of illegal clearing and used intimidation and bullying tactics against people to get their way.