A petition signed by over 17,000 concerned citizens was presented to the NSW Parliament today, urging the State government to find an alternative koala-friendly route for the Pacific Highway upgrade from Broadwater to Ballina.
The petition, coordinated by Friends of the Koala, IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) and the Ballina Environment Society, expresses concern that the proposed route bisects the Blackwall Range, home to a nationally significant population of just approximately 200 koalas, as well as other threatened wildlife species and sacred aboriginal sites.
Concern for the fate of these koalas was significant enough for federal environment minister Greg Hunt to insist that before starting work on this section of the highway upgrade, Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) must demonstrate that the work will not cause the extinction of this population
Lorraine Vass, president of Friends of the Koala said, ‘Time is running out for Ballina’s koalas. Even while minister Hunt’s conditions are keeping the bulldozers at bay, we know that already seven koalas have been killed or died since Christmas. The actual number is probably higher. This koala population is very likely already in decline. The last thing it needs is a national highway running through it. RMS needs to get serious about looking at alternative routes.’
Matthew Collis, campaigns manager at IFAW said, ‘The koala is an international icon for Australia’s unique wildlife but in NSW the situation is dire, with numbers plummeting in recent years. The NSW government has a responsibility to protect this nationally significant koala population and koalas across the state, and we need to see them taking that responsibility seriously. At the very least, we need transparency from the government about how they intend to prevent their preferred route causing this population of koalas going extinct.’