Lismore councillor Simon Clough wants his fellow councillors to join him in opposing the proposed Pacific Highway upgrade route between Broadwater and Ballina.
In a notice of motion to be considered at this evening’s first council meeting of the year, Cr Clough said the proposed route would destroy 350 hectares of koala habitat, which contains up to 200 koalas.
‘This will probably lead to the loss of a nationally significant koala population,’ Cr Clough said.
‘It is likely, based on research by koala expert Dr Steve Phillips, that the area destroyed is an ancestral source population for Lismore koalas and is necessary to maintain genetic diversity,’ he said.
Cr Clough said the proposed route would also threaten vulnerable species such as the long-nosed potoroo, and would negatively impact significant Aboriginal sacred sites which include scar trees.
The NSW government recently stated that the route won’t be moved but they would get chief scientist Mary O’Kane to oversee a working group on koala protection.
NSW roads and north coast minister Duncan Gay told ABC that the government was confident the best route had been chosen.
’We believe that we’ve carefully put [the bypass] in the best place possible. It’s certainly the one that is overwhelmingly supported by the local communities,’ he said.
‘But what we need to do is ensure we put the best possible mitigation in place so the long term survival of the koalas is guaranteed.’
Despite those comments, opposition to the proposed route is significant.
Save Ballina’s Koalas campaign coordinator and Ballina Greens councillor Jeff Johnson said more than 50,000 people had signed a petition to change the route.
Meanwhile, Cr Clough said it should be noted that the NSW Government has not bothered to cost an alternative route, despite the significant opposition to the proposed route.
He is urging his fellow councillors to write to premier Mike Baird, the relevant ministers, and local members, expressing concerns about the impacts of the proposed route.
This evening’s meeting is open to the public and begins at 6pm.