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Byron Shire
April 15, 2021

Koala carers call on feds to intervene over highway route

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Friends of the Koala with Cr Jeff Johnson outside Ballina Shire Council chambers (file pic).
Friends of the Koala with Cr Jeff Johnson outside Ballina Shire Council chambers (file pic).

Chris Dobney

Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass was working on the organisation’s strategic plan yesterday when she received a phone call with the news she had been dreading.

The state government has approved the proposed western route of the Pacific Highway’s Ballina to Woolgoolga duplication, with the Wardell section set to pass through the middle of the region’s most intact koala colony in the Blackwall Ranges.

Up until last week a loose coalition of Greens and koala carers thought they had the support of Ballina Council in asking the government to reroute the road to the east of the town.

But that was swept away at last week’s meeting, which saw a mayoral minute calling for that route to be avoided.

Now all eyes will be on federal environment minister Greg Hunt, who must also sign off on the proposal owing to the potential impact on the highway to the threatened species.

‘We will still be looking at the intervention of Greg Hunt because he still has powers to contest this. His focus is on threatened species, and the threatened species of most concern to us is the koalas,’ Mrs Vass told Echonetdaily this morning.

‘We’ll have a busy weekend ahead of us,’ she added.

‘I had a quick look at the determination documentation on the department of planning’s website, I’ll have a more rigorous look at to see how closely it focuses on the area around the koala colony, whether there are any conditions, etc.

But Mrs Vass is not confident that even with a proposed 200 animal crossings, there will be enough protection for the koalas.

‘As far as I can ascertain, that [number of] 200 crossings applies to the entire route. We don’t know how many apply to the area. We’d probably need a crossing every 200-300 metres for it to be meaningful.

Mrs Vass says she also fears for the safety of the koalas during the road building progress.

‘It’s not just about the roadkill afterwards. We believe 11 were killed during the Ewingsdale upgrade, including the ones killed on the roads, but also there is also a spillover effect of the road-building juggernaut,’ she said.

‘We’re not aware that any translocation program is part of the process and, even if it is, there still has to be somewhere for them to be relocated to,’ she added.

Ballina Shire Councillor Jeff Johnson, who has been campaigning for the route between Broadwater and Ballina to be reconsidered, questions the process that has ignored community concerns for over 10 years.

‘Why hasn’t a route been selected that utilises the existing highway corridor?’ he asked.

‘Why bulldoze a 100-metre wide highway through a nationally significant wildlife area, home to over 30 threatened species, when there are cheaper, and more direct route options available?

‘State and federal environment laws have been put in place to protect the biodiversity of our country. This decision does not meet the community’s expectation that areas of national significance will be protected.’

But north coast minister and deputy premier Andrew Stoner says he believes the federal approval will be ‘a formality’.

‘We’ve taken advice from scientific experts to give us the best advice in relation to all environmental factors, including the koala colony south of Ballina, he told ABC North Coast this morning, ‘and we’re told that with the wildlife crossings that will be incorporated as part of the construction, that those concerns have been adequately addressed.’

But Mrs Vass says her group will continue to fight for the impacted koalas.

‘We’re not going to give up. We’ll continue working on our campaign we’ll take it right up to government.

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  1. Cue the mysterious bush fires that seem to occur so frequently on property developer owned land tht happens to have colony’s of protected species.

  2. If it helps: here is some info which may help: seems for fencing and road crossings to be genuinely effective they will be expensive: more money spent seems to help chances for population of koalas.

    So, how much is needed at what cost before a change in route is actually on par or even cheaper option??

    from http://rhodesconservation.com/

    “We explored the trade-off between expected koala population size, relative to the best outcome, and budget. There is a strong demand for mitigation as the already declining population was reduced even further when no mitigation was employed, while applying the most cost-effective combination of mitigation actions minimized that decline. Additionally, uncertainty in species attributes (speed of crossing a road and population growth rate) affected population viability but not the decision about which suite of actions (mitigation measures) to take – so our advice on the best action is robust to uncertainty even if the outcome is not.

    Most importantly, the trade-off curves between investment and population size are almost linear in this case study. Hence, there is no cheap solution and any reduction in the budget will result in a substantial reduction in expected population size.”

  3. Most of these two hundred crossings will be tunnels that are really drains for water, that are upgraded for animals to move through.

    These will be underground dark tunnels up to 100 m long.

    These tunnels will flood.

    These tunnels are ideal for predators as foxes and dogs, to prey on the passing fare.

    What is needed are “vegetated wildlife overpasses”, like the more advances western countries in the northern hemisphere now build for wildlife to cross highways.

    These decision makers are enemies of our wildlife heritage.

  4. Absolutely disgusting. Australia has the world’s worst record for mammal extinctions and this typically shows the reason why – … politicians, [in conjunction with] developers!
    Our poor wildlife have it tough enough without losing even more habitat!


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