Reports of wildlife killed in the process of clearing for the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale Pacific Highway upgrade have been denied by a Roads and Maritime Services spokesperson.
Echonetdaily has been contacted by several people living in the path of the Tintenbar to Bangalow section of the road, where broad-scale clearing for the new highway is well underway.
Two weeks ago, Friends of the Koala rescued a disorientated koala from a camphor laurel tree at the Bangalow Showgrounds.
And several days ago an Echonetdaily reader from Knockrow, who declined to be named, wrote to say she had witnessed ‘a dead koala, two possums plus other unrecognisable blobs’ over the space of several days last week.
‘We think they are cleaning up each morning to avoid the publicity,’ the reader commented.
Friends of the Koala president, Lorraine Vass, said she agreed with RMS that the koala rescued from the Bangalow Showgrounds was probably not an escapee from the path of the highway upgrade.
‘A very experienced rescuer attended that incident. She felt it wasn’t to do with the highway but was fleeing after some koala feed trees were cut down adjacent to the petrol station on Granuaille Road.’
She said that another callout to a mother and ‘back-young’ in recent days had been in the vicinity of the highway upgrade but ‘it’s impossible to know for sure where they came from’.
She added that somebody manning the hotline had taken a call about the allegedly killed koala but they had no further information on the incident.
The RMS spokesperson said that workers clearing for the highway had to adhere to strict procedures to minimise impact to wildlife and so far only some frogs and snakes had required removal.
‘Any identified potential environmental impact caused by the Tintenbar to Ewingsdale Pacific Highway upgrade is managed in line with state and federal environmental laws,’ she said.
‘Clearing is a necessary and important stage of any upgrade. Extensive pre-clearing surveys were carried out for the project by a local ecologist to identify areas of likely fauna habitat.
‘Tree clearing in areas of potential or known fauna habitat is carried out in a two-stage process with non-habitat trees cleared first, leaving known or potential habitat trees in place for a minimum of 24 hours to enable fauna to relocate.
‘When potential habitat trees are cleared they are placed down and inspected by an ecologist to ensure no fauna is present.
‘Any fauna found within these trees or the project corridor, which is likely to be affected by building activities, is captured by ecologists and relocated. To date this has included a number of frogs and snakes. No reports of native animal casualties have been reported to RMS,’ she said.
The community can report animal casualties or sighting to RMS on 1800 882 787.
The spokesperson told Echonetdaily that RMS has a number of solutions to ensure fauna protection during building and when the project opens to traffic. These include:
- engaging a koala expert during the planning phase to ensure fauna passages were addressed and impacts minimised
- eleven proposed locations for fauna crossings on the upgrade, including six under the bridges at Emigrant, Minor, Byron and Tinderbox creeks
- nest boxes for possums and bird life installed before building started to provide alternative roost sites along the length of the upgrade
- planned fauna fencing to ensure the impact from vehicles is minimised on local fauna including koalas
- landscaping plans that include specific plant species to maximise wildlife habitat connectivity, particularly under creek crossings and koala feed trees.