Why is RMS stalling on koala highway FOI?

Last week Bob Higgins, project manager of the Pacific Highway Upgrade told us via the ABC that the peer review process was the reason for the delay in releasing the Ballina Koala Plan.

All very well, but the material requested by Friends of the Koala under freedom of information was significantly more than the Plan. Amongst other things we asked for the Biolink/Ecosure baseline koala study, the Australian Museum’s genetic study, minutes of the expert panel’s meetings and correspondence between the various parties involved with these studies.

Mr Higgins also said that the Ballina Koala Plan ‘should be completed in the coming weeks’. We assume then that peer review of the baseline studies was completed months ago. Correspondence and minutes of course fall outside peer review.

Following three months of argy-bargy from RMS regarding what we could expect them to release to us, Friends of the Koala instructed EDO on December 8, 2015 to ask for any material not subject to third party consultation, with the rest to come in mid-January 2016. RMS denied that request.

A RMS spokesperson told The Echo that the Plan will be released publicly ‘after it has been submitted [to federal environment minister, Greg Hunt] and the project team will meet with key stakeholders, including Friends of the Koala to brief them on the outcomes’.

Our question is when is ‘after’? Is it the same day as submission? The following day? A week? A month? After briefing? Perhaps after Greg Hunt’s determination?

Come on Bob, Friends of the Koala has shared its data and samples with RMS’s consultants, at least give us the baseline reports and the expert panel minutes. What is there to fear?

Lorraine Vass, president, Friends of the Koala, Inc.

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