Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass is not being melodramatic when she says the future of Ballina’s koalas is in the balance, with the ‘preferred’ route of the Woodburn section of the Pacific Highway completely bisecting their colony in the Blackwall Range.
‘Undoubtedly the Save Ballina’s Koalas campaign, which is now in its fifth month, has achieved closer scrutiny of the koalas and their needs by Roads and Maritime Services (RMS). However all the mitigation measures in the world will not save this nationally significant population, should the route preferred by RMS be approved,’ she told Echonetdaily.
In the words of koala expert Steve Phillips, ‘there is literally nowhere for them to go’.
But Mrs Vass does hold out some hope after she managed to enlist the support of outgoing National Party member for Ballina, Don Page.
Last week, Mrs Vass visited Mr Page and presented him with petitions containing 43,000 signatures calling on pollies to protect Ballina’s koalas from the bulldozers.
She added she was ‘delighted that Don Page is speaking to the NSW minister for roads, Duncan Gay, and to the federal minister for the environment, Greg Hunt, on the issue of alternative routes.’
‘The Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway Upgrade Project requires the approval of the NSW minister for planning, Pru Goward and the federal minister, Greg Hunt,’ Mrs Vass said.
‘Goward can approve the overall project and impose a modification that could see the route changed, providing she considers the minister for roads’ advice and the director-general’s assessment report.
‘Hunt can impose conditions – such as requiring the route avoid the important koala population area – or refuse approval on the basis of its impacts on koalas.
‘The committed support of Don Page, Greg Hunt and Kevin Hogan is crucial to the campaign’s success. We urge everyone in the Northern Rivers who cares about koalas to contact them urgently,’ Mrs Vass said.
For more information, supporters are encouraged to like the Save Ballina’s Koalas page on Facebook.