The local campaign to convince the RMS (Roads and Maritime Services) and the NSW government to reconsider the route for the upgrade of the Pacific Highway between Broadwater and Wardell is gaining momentum.
A Ballina Shire Council commissioned Koala Habitat Study, which was completed last year, identified a nationally significant koala population in the Blackwall Range/Coolgardie/Meerschuam Vale area that would be put at risk if the proposed motorway route is not changed.
Council’s expert koala ecologist Dr Steve Phillips has repeatedly stated that unless the highway route is changed, this nationally significant koala colony will be ‘wiped out’.
While the koala is the focus of the campaign due to the findings of the recent study, there are over 30 other flora and fauna species that would be put at risk unless the highway route is changed, including the last known population of the north coast potoroo.
Councillors unanimously supported a motion to write to the RMS and key politicians, including Ballina MP Don Page calling for the route to be changed due to the significant impacts it would have on the biodiversity of the important area.
Furthermore, the Council is calling for the creation of a koala sanctuary so that the nationally significant colony can be protected into the future.
A highway route that more closely aligns with the existing highway, with bypasses of both Broadwater and Wardell, would not impact on either the important wildlife zone or the Indigenous Protection Area (IPA) which is also of national significance.
Moreover, a route that largely follows the existing highway could be delivered sooner, and more than likely cheaper (the NSW roads minister confirmed in parliament a few weeks ago that the estimated cost of the proposed route was over $1 billion, and that doesn’t include any additional culverts and protection measures now being considered by the RMS).
A big thank you to everyone who has signed the petition, written emails/letters and offered support to the campaign so far.
For more information about the campaign, and what you can do to help, please check out the Facebook page ‘Save Ballina’s Koalas’.
It’s not a question of one or the other, we can have a safe new highway and protect this important wildlife refuge for generations to come.
Jeff Johnson, Ballina Shire councillor