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Byron Shire
April 23, 2021

Black Rocks koala meeting hijacked by councillor

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The Saturday public information session at Pottsville on Black Rocks koalas was hijacked by Cr Barry Longland and his facebook ‘gang’ who quickly turned it into a public misinformation session.

In spite of a highly authoritative presentation by nationally respected koala expert Dr Steve Phillips, Cr Longland insisted that ‘the gate hasn’t worked’ (people didn’t have vehicular access to the oval 24/7) and it had to be removed and be replaced with a grid. He ignored the fact that the gate was only there to protect the koalas and that the Koala Advisory Group recommended the gate be kept locked except for sporting events. The pedestrian gate was open 24/7 anyway. His council vote with the pro-development bloc ensured koalas didn’t get a fully locked gate like other sporting venues in sensitive locations.

Dr Phillips predicted local extinction for coastal koalas in 10-15 years unless this important cell of koalas were given time to recover from the devastating fire over Xmas and from other ongoing human impacts (hoons, dogs, council mowing, shooting, parties etc). The best protection is to revegetate the oval and enclave the koalas to prevent people from entering. Having a 4ha oval and access road in the middle of koala habitat where dogs could run is detrimental to koala welfare.

Additionally Cr Longland insulted Dr Phillips by saying that there needed to be an accurate count of koalas, not just his estimate. How will council be able to do an accurate count of koalas that are very hard to find? Why didn’t he insist that Dr Phillips be in charge of such a job since he has 40 years experience with koalas?

Dr Phillips did the Atlas study in 2011, which became the basis for council’s Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management. Because the CKPOM ignored key provisions it is not assertive enough to help koalas recover.

The only thing that will save koalas from extinction depends on you and me taking actions to advocate for stronger protection, not an apathetic community who want a sports field more than koalas. Without strong community involvement, coastal koalas’ future is sealed.

Menkit Prince, Uki


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