Dozens of protesters converged outside the Ballina office of National Party state MP Don Page yesterday calling for action on two pressing environmental concerns for the northern rivers region.
The Knitting Nannas Against Gas Ballina Shire (Ballinannas), who earlier in the day staged their own peaceful protest to highlight the potential impact of CSG mining in the area, later joined ‘Save Ballina Koalas’ protesters, petitioning to have the Wardell bypass section of the Pacific Highway upgrade reconsidered.
The koala protesters, led by Green Cr Jeff Johnson, called on Mr Page as local MP and minister for the north coast to demand that the RMS re-examine other highway options and move to protect this important wildlife corridor and habitat.
Cr Jeff Johnson told the crowd that Mr Page has ‘remained silent on this important local issue and that the RMS has chosen a highway route that’s been rejected by the community’.
He said: ‘the highway can be upgraded within the existing road corridor with bypasses of Broadwater and Wardell. A nationally listed species will be threatened if this proposal isn’t reconsidered’.
He added that Mr Page should ensure that the Blackhall Range is protected.
Environmental scientist Dr Effie Ablett backed Cr Jeff Johnson’s calls, stating that if the highway goes ahead through its intended route, ‘it’s very likely many of the 200 koalas living there will not survive the construction phase of the road and it could see the population wiped out’.
Protesters called on the RMS and the state government to accept the findings of the recent Ballina Shire Koala Habitat Study and move to reconsider other route options.
Despite the strong presence outside his electorate office yesterday, Mr Page failed to appear to address the protesters’ concerns.
The Echo contacted both Mr Page’s Ballina office and his ministerial office in Sydney for comment but had not received a response prior to publication.
Cr Jeff Johnson called on local communities to sign the koala petition or email/write to Mr Page, federal minister for the environment, Greg Hunt and NSW planning minister Brad Hazzard to change the proposed highway route.