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April 18, 2021

Labor’s koala commitment questioned by Greens

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Lismore Labor candidate Isaac Smith.
Lismore Labor candidate Isaac Smith.

Darren Coyne

Lismore Labor candidate Isaac Smith has defended his decision to vote against a motion to express concern about the Pacific Highway upgrade between Ballina and Broadwater, which critics say will decimate the northern rivers koala population.

The NSW Greens environment spokesperson Dr Mehreen Faruqi MLC, and Greens Candidate for Ballina, Tamara Smith, have accused Labor of being inconsistent on the issue.

‘Just a few weeks after Labor announced support for a koala national park, two Labor councillors in Lismore yesterday (Tuesday) voted against a motion to write to the NSW Premier Mike Baird, the relevant ministers, and local members, expressing concerns about the impacts of the proposed Pacific Highway upgrade route between Broadwater and Ballina,’ they said.

‘The route chosen by the Government for the Pacific Highway will deviate significantly from the current alignment, cutting through the middle of a nationally significant Koala habitat.

‘The Greens believe a different route should be chosen that delivers an upgraded Pacific Highway and protects koalas.’

Ballina candidate Tamara Smith said the proposed route would ‘lead to the localized extinction of this iconic species and ignores broad community support to save this threatened species’.

‘How can the community trust the ALP leader’s commitment to consider an alternate highway route, if it’s being ignored by Labor Mayor’s and state candidate’s here on the North Coast?

‘This precious koala population needs to be preserved, and while the ALP make cheap promises to grab a headline, the Greens are unreservedly calling on the State Government to shift the highway route to preserve this koala corridor.

‘The Labor Party need to come clean with the community about whether they really will step in to save Ballina’s koalas.’

When pressed on the issue yesterday, Cr Smith said however that it was a Ballina issue that should be left to the people of Ballina.

‘I’m very concerned about koalas and was very happy to support the national park down near Coffs Harbor.

‘You’ll see further announcements from Labor on how we will support the environment and biodiversity ‘during the election campaign’, he said.

In response to criticism on social media, Cr Isaac questioned the usefulness of writing a letter to the premier.

‘For me this was out of our area and writing a letter does not translate into strong action,’ he said.

‘We need to find way to improve this project for the koala population and this motion would have no effect on stopping the road or assisting our koalas.’

Mayor Jenny Dowell, also a Labor member, stated that she voted against writing a letter because ‘it’s not in our LGA’ and that the alternative route being proposed by campaigners was ‘not feasible’.

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  1. Tragic Labor. So Isaac Smith thinks the issue has nothing to do with Lismore. Unfortunately Koalas don’t see it that way. The area is linked because it is koala habitat. Those koalas. They pay no rates and rent and now they want a home – with food supplied because they might become extinct. Go out and get a job you lazy koalas and buy your own habitat (in Ballina Shire ofcourse).

  2. What hypocrites!!!
    How can you announce plans for a Koala National Park in Coffs Harbour but not support the survival of the largest, and possibly the only viable population of Koalas north of the Richmond River, because ‘it’s not in your Shire’?

    I thought that Labor’s position was to re-route the highway along the existing highway corridor, is that not the case? Clearly Labor’s Koala Parks are just an election pitch aimed at conning those who care about our biodiversity and Aboriginal Culture.

    The long term survival of Lismore’s Koalas are directly linked to protecting Ballina’s Koalas, the populations are interlinked and not separate colonies. One of Australia’s leading Koala ecologists who has studying the population in depth has concluded that unless the highway deviation is reconsidered the local population will become extinct.

    You can’t have it both ways, you either support our biodiversity and call for the protection of this area or you are happy to see the decline of Koalas in the Northern Rivers.

  3. Well of course, it is disappointing that yet another population of this rare and endangered iconic species is about to get the chop. In reality however this is just a sideshow to the main-event.
    Before the highway reaches this contested point, it will have decimated hundreds of miles of hugely important environmental habitat containing not only Koala habitat but the last of the eastern Emu population, swaths of wetland and coastal heathland, these are the last near pristine coastal areas of NSW. They have been preserved this far, by luck and certainly not good management, due to the fact that the highway bypassed this area, passing through Grafton. The new alignment will plough through the guts of what is left of natural coastal communities in this state.

    Perhaps this is why nobody is too concerned about a few Koalas near Ballina ,they are aware of wholesale massacre happening a few kilometers south. Now you are too !
    have a look at the RTA website for the map.

  4. I am very passionate about the regions koala population and no one has done more to support Lismore Koala’s than I have during my 7 years on Lismore City Council. But as I am quoted as saying above, “This is out of our area and is not strong action”.

    Writing a letter to say that Ballina Council and Ballina shire people, along with the RMS, is doing the wrong thing is akin to the NSW govt writing a letter to the QLD got complaining about a road in Brisbane. It is not going to be regarded as significant or representative. I don’t remember receiving any words of support from Clr Johnson or Ballina Council for our Koala Plan of Management or Biodiversity strategy in Lismore, even though it clearly has implications for Ballina Koala’s. So I am guessing they also thought it was out of their area as well.

    I have always strived to strike a balance and be practical, to find results rather than arguments. This is something I want to take from Local Govt to State where arguments seem to be to common.

  5. One question: What the hell are you thinking !!!!!!!! How are you going to grow more Koalas after displacing them, haven’t we done enough to them?


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