The state opposition has called on the government to urgently step in to protect the Tweed’s last remaining koalas from being wiped out from impacts of the massive Kings Forest subdivision on the Tweed coast.
The news comes just as ABC’s Four Corners program last night highlighted the sudden and shocking decline in koala numbers across north-east New South Wales and south-east Queensland, mostly due to encroaching residential development.
In a plea to parliament last week, Labor’s spokesman on the north coast, MLC Walt Secord, said it was not too late to improve koala protection on the site and the government ‘must intervene’ to insist on steps such as dog bans.
Mr Secord said dog bans, speed restrictions, corridors and overpasses should be at the core of the plan to protect koalas in and around for the site south of Kingscliff.
But a proposed dog ban recommended by Tweed Shire Council staff was ‘shamefully’ overturned by majority, pro-development councillors earlier this year, he told MPs.
The MLC recently met with Team Koala and its president Jenny Hayes, endorsing the campaigners’ bid for more safeguards at the giant housing estate adjoining the wildlife-rich Cudgen Nature Reserve.
‘Team Koala is concentrating its efforts on protecting the remaining koalas, which its members believe will be adversely affected by the Kings Forest development,’ Mr Secord said.
‘This is an 870-hectare project that would see 4,500 houses built over the next 20 years. Many of the koalas live in or roam around surrounding bushland. There are 64 koalas on the subject site alone.
‘Team Koala believes there should be koala corridors or overpasses like those on the Pacific Highway, speed limits of 40 kilometres an hour, appropriate lighting so that motorists can see the koalas’ movements, and strict restrictions or consideration of a total ban on dogs at the Kings Forest site.
‘For the record, in Pottsville there is already a no-dogs-or-cats policy at Koala Beach. There is a clear precedent that favours protecting iconic native animals over domestic imports.
‘I have been a dog owner but I know that dogs and endangered fauna are a poor mix. It is just common sense. Sadly, that sense is lacking in some members of Tweed Shire Council.’
(In January, council voted 4–3, with Crs Katie Milne, Barry Longland and Dot Holdom against, to overturn the dog ban.)
‘Unfortunately, the council has voted to let dogs back into a known koala habitat. That is shameful. We know from evidence that this will lead to more koala deaths. This shameful lack of common sense is the reason state government intervention is now urgent.’
Mr Secord said there were only three known koala colonies left in the Tweed and the largest one was near Kings Forest. The other two are Round Mountain near Cabarita and Pottsville’s Koala Beach.
‘A viable koala community needs a minimum of 170 koalas. Official Tweed koala numbers have been reduced to below 140. This has put their three tiny colonies in jeopardy and on the environmental brink.
‘Responding to this decline is now urgent, especially as there were two cases of koalas being killed just last month.’