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March 1, 2021

Highway detour ‘a threat to koalas’

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Image: Ricardo Giaviti/Flickr.com
Image: Ricardo Giaviti/Flickr.com

The state government has been urged to consider changing the route of the Pacific Highway at Ballina to save threatened koala habitat.

A recent study commissioned by Ballina Shire Council shows that a section of the Pacific Highway upgrade takes a large detour into the Blackwall Range, which is home to a nationally significant koala population.

NSW Greens have backed Ballina Cr Jeff Johnson in a united call on the NSW roads minister to pay heed to local community concerns by altering the route.

Cr Johnson said the proposed route ignores the concerns of local residents ‘who have deep concerns about the impacts on the north coast koala populations’.

He said the recent study commissioned by his council identified koalas in the Blackwall Range area as being ‘nationally significant and a key local source population for the entire northern rivers region.

‘The north coast is one of the last refuges of our vulnerable koala populations, this road has the real potential to irreversibly impact their habitat.’

Greens NSW roads and environment spokesperson Dr Mehreen Faruqi said the government ‘is proposing to build a significant deviation of the Pacific Highway straight through some of the last habitats of vulnerable koala populations on the north coast’.

Dr Faruqi said she had written to the ministers for roads, planning and the environment ‘to ensure that there is a sensible resolution to this issue that results in the Pacific Highway being upgraded and precious koala habitat conserved and protected.

‘There is no doubt that the Pacific Highway needs to be upgraded to save lives, but it is entirely possible to do this in a way that minimises the impact on our precious natural areas,’ she said.

‘It is irresponsible and unnecessary to choose the option that runs through some of the largest remaining tracts of bushland and threatened species habitat in the Ballina Shire.

‘The selected route is the longest and most environmentally destructive of all the proposed options.

‘The roads minister needs to listen to the community and upgrade the Pacific Highway in a way that both delivers safety and protects our koalas, which are listed as vulnerable to extinction by the federal government.

‘It seems the only reason for such a sharp deviation from the original Pacific Highway is the opportunity to mine shale from the Blackwall Range.

‘The integrity of precious koala habitat far outweighs the minor economic benefits of mining shale closer to the construction site, shale can be brought in, once our iconic koalas are gone from the area, they will be gone forever.

‘Unfortunately, with the Federal government handing down environmental approval powers to the state, we can expect more of this environmental destruction.

‘It is time this government started realising that our native animals are too precious to lose and that when done within the framework of ecologically sustainable development, we can upgrade transport infrastructure and maintain our environment’, she concluded.

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  1. Don’t these people realise that native animals shift their habitats when their current settlement places are disturbed, by such natural problems such as bush fires. They are naturally attuned to adjust to changes. A few individuals may be lost but the overall loss will, in the long run, be minimal.
    To alter plans already in place will cost millions of dollars. The enthusiastic Greens backing this move should be required to pay the costs of the alterations.

  2. Good luck on changing Sydney’s view. For a decade it has been argued that the this proposed route is perhaps the least sensible and most shortsighted. Arguments, other than regarding Koalas, have included the proposed location for crossing the Richmond will do significant damage to critical fish nursery habitat for our north coast fisheries, which have already been severely compromised in this area through development.
    The proposed area in the Blackwall range is one of the last in tact remnants of the Big Scrub forest thought of such importance that three decades ago it was included in the list of important areas on the north coast that should be put on the World Heritage list, that same process that saw the Border Ranges, among others, listed. Unlike the other proposed listings, the listing of the Blackwall range wasn’t opposed by the then local councils but by the state government.
    By all reports the current reservation through which the current highway runs originally included sufficient space to allow for the creation of a four lane roadway. So quite apart from the expense of having to cut a swathe through a series of heavily timbered stone ridges, a mere kilometre or two from the proposed route there already exists a cleared, flat expanse running parallel that already has a major road on it to the same location, Ballina.
    The most important question remains unanswered, why this way? It doesn’t seem to make any economic sense and will do the most environmental damage.

  3. Money, big machinery contracts, and failing to learn from history are just a few fingers on the glove on one of the hands of political expediency.
    It is like “this is the house that Jack built”
    But, instead, “this is the Forest the God built”
    To save space, i shall just skip to the last verse…..

    This is the God that is the Law that guides the Elements released by Nature, that makes the Desert, that eats up the House where the Backroom is, where deals unspoke, will spin off the Spinner advising the Government, voted by most, that paid the Servant to publically host and hire the Company that used the Contractor who hired the Man who drove the Bulldozer that chased the Koala, that slept in the Tree, that grew in the Forest that God built

    ad nauseum


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