A picture of the sportsfield at Black Rocks taken later last year. Photo Luis Feliu
Development of a sportsfield on the edge of the Tweed coast’s urban sprawl south of Pottsville could impact on the area’s dwindling koala population and its relocation should be considered, Tweed Shire Council has been told.
The sportsfield, yet to be formally used, is in an isolated area next to the new Black Rocks housing estate, surrounded by environmentally sensitive wetland and paperbark forest. The area is a known koala habitat and wildlife corridor.
Council planners have earmarked the preparation of a master plan for the sportsfield, which will also include tennis courts and associated facilities, to accommodate Pottsville’s growing population.
But concerns have been raised that the plan conflicts with state legislation for koala habitat protection and non-compliance with the area’s koala plan of management.
The issue of Tweed coast’s dwindling koala population, last estimated to number around 140, has escalated as a major concern for experts and the local community as development makes big inroads into their habitat and corridor areas.
The federal government also recently strengthened the protection status of koalas in light of fears that many coastal populations along the eastern seaboard are likely to be extinct in a few years as a result of urban sprawl.
Greens Cr Katie Milne is set to move at next week’s Council meeting for Council to look at the potential of preserving the proposed Blacks Rocks sportsfield for koala habitat and environmental purposes.
And the council’s koala advisory group’s (KAG) recent meeting heard how the sportsfield is unsuitable for further intensification and that any such facilities should instead be provided as part of future proposed urban development at Dunloe Park or west Pottsville.
Cr Milne’s notice of motion asks that a report be prepared detailing sporting needs and current levels of sporting use in the Pottsville area, as well as reviewing the need in light of any reduced population forecasts.
She also asks that options be looked at for relocating or rationalising the sportsfield into other less environmentally sensitive areas, or for it to be used for less intensive sporting uses ‘including, but not limited to, eliminating the night tennis component and other activities that could impact on the environmental buffer areas’.
Her notice also calls for advice on future maintenance costs and bushfire concerns at the isolated location.
Black Rocks estate resident Dave Norris recently wrote to Council expressing concern about the impacts on koalas and other species from the proposed construction of the tennis courts and associated development of the sportsfield.
Council ecologist and KAG member Dr Mark Kingston responded that concerns on the building of the tennis courts had also been raised within Council, but that a decision on where to build them was yet to be made by Council.
In response to Mr Norris’s concerns over non-compliance of the development with the Black Rocks koala plan of management, Dr Kingston said Council had acknowledged a number of deficiencies in the plan’s implementation, which it was seeking to address ‘through the approvals process and at an operational level’.
Dr Kingston said Council also had prohibited all dogs from the sportsfield, provided appropriate signage, initiated ranger patrols and installed lockable gates to prevent out-of-hours access.
In concerns raised about conflicts with state koala protection policy, Dr Kingston said while there were major environmental constraints at the Black Rocks sportsfield, there were also ‘significant issues for koalas at both Dunloe Park and West Pottsville, particularly with respect to improving connectivity’.
‘As a consequence it is likely that strategic planning in these areas will need to accommodate koala management issues under the forthcoming Tweed Coast Koala Plan of Management,’ he said.