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Byron Shire
April 13, 2021

Koalas and the Pacific Highway

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Lorraine Vass, Friends of the Koala

The Pacific Highway accounted for 10 of the 61 koala mortalities that have occurred on our roads during 2014.

Most deaths have been in the vicinity of the Bangalow roadworks, highlighting the danger that the construction phase of Pacific Highway upgrades poses to koalas.

However, the number of koalas killed on the road is only part of the problem; associated koala mortalities increase the catastrophic impact of construction.

At the landscape level, koalas are displaced. Vegetation clearance results in koalas spending more time on the ground and therefore increases their vulnerability to predation.

There’s also the ever-present risk of disease; the stress of displacement often triggering clinical chlamydia and sometimes retrovirus.

Once the upgrades are operational koala road-kill regrettably, continues and the Highway itself is a barrier to koala movement.

The features intended to ameliorate the danger i.e. the exclusion fencing, and even the underpasses and arches (the latter two in the short to medium term at least) disrupt movement for recruitment purposes. Either way, the koala loses.

Friends of the Koala acknowledges that research into the design and implementation of environmentally sensitive roads and other linear infrastructure is ongoing.

It has to be said though, well-informed ecological assessments at the outset minimise the chances of understating the importance of some areas for koalas.

The Blackwall Range in Ballina Shire is one such area. The decision on Roads and Maritime Service’s (RMS) preferred route for Stage 10 of the Woolgoolga to Ballina Upgrade was made a decade ago. While koala populations were well known and their importance intuitively understood by some, nothing had been published.

The science is well documented now. The koala and several other threatened species which will likely be destroyed if the route is allowed to proceed are protected by the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Indeed, it may not be possible to meet the federal minister’s conditions of consent relating to the koala.

RMS is between a rock and a very hard place.

A public meeting addressing these issues will be held at the Ballina RSL on Wednesday 28 January at 6.30pm.

Time is running out for Ballina’s koalas. Call 02 6629 8388 for more details.

Lorraine Vass, Friends of the Koala




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