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April 22, 2024

Black Rocks Men’s Shed site claims disputed

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David Norris, Pottsville. 

I wish to respond to Ms Lorraine Vass’ recent letter. Contrary to her experience, many koala experts claim that koalas are vulnerable to stress-related disease as a result of human-related disturbance. A paper by Dr Steve Phillips will be released later this year which provides evidence that stress-related disease skyrockets in koalas living at the human interface. His recent peer-reviewed paper on the aversive behaviour of koalas to noise has established a link between the impacts of noise and koala death.

According to Pottsville and District Men’s Shed minutes, in 2014 the Lot 3 Centennial Drive site was the preferred option of council and P&DMS. Why was there no problem in regard to impacts on threatened species and their habitat then, but there is now?

It appears that Ms Vass has been provided with misinformation by council regarding the Lot 3 site. There are many inconsistencies between the council report for the September 15 council meeting and the Landmark Flora and Fauna Assessment for the Pottsville Pre-school extensions on the Lot 3 site.

The council report claims: ‘The proposed alternative location on Lot 3 DP1062338 Centennial Drive at Pottsville does not offer any ecological advantage’. The Landmark FFA provides evidence and conclusions that completely contradict this assumption.

The council report states, ‘The exact suite of threatened species that were a consideration at Black Rocks occurs at Centennial Drive’. The Black Rocks sports field site supports Koalas, Bush stone-curlews and Ospreys. However, the Landmark FAA states: ‘Three species were considered likely to occur on the subject (Lot 3) site, ie Bush Stone-curlew, Grey-headed Flying Fox and Eastern Blossom-bat…but there is no certainty as to the presence or absence of these species…The proposal (Pre-school extensions) will have small to negligible adverse impacts on the threatened species and their habitats.’

The Landmark FFA further states that there are ‘no signs evident’ of koalas on the Lot 3 site and ‘As Potential Koala Habitat has not been identified at the (Lot 3) site, a determination of Core Koala Habitat is not required…A Plan of Management for Koalas is not required based on this assessment…Endangered Ecological Communities are not present at the site.’

There are no primary koala food trees on the Lot 3 site, and the Landmark FFA proves that there is no core koala habitat which would need to be cleared to accommodate a men’s shed. The land which is already cleared on the Lot 3 site is approximately 3,000 square metres (see attached map). The area required for a shed is approximately 250 square metres with adequate roadside parking facilities available.

Conversely, at the Black Rocks sports field a men’s shed facility has been approved only 20 metres from core koala/primary koala habitat where koalas have been evidenced in the middle of a ‘significant koala activity site’ at the junction of 3 koala corridor linkages as identified in the 2011 and 2015 Koala Studies. The Black Rocks sports field site is surrounded on all sides by core koala habitat and endangered ecological communities, supporting a resident koala population. As a consequence it is protected by an Individual Koala Plan of Management as required by State Environmental Planning Policy 44.

An Osprey nest is located 430 metres from the Lot 3 site, and the Landmark FFA states that Ospreys may fly over the Lot 3 site. However, the Black Rocks sports field site supports the only naturally-occurring Osprey nest on the coast.

Dr Steve Phillips recently wrote: ‘I have read the Landmark Report…I find it difficult to accept the conclusion of “No ecological advantage” when the Black Rock site is a known connectivity hub that is currently supporting a resident koala population, while the Pre-school site is not located in a connectivity hub…and does not appear to be currently supporting a resident population’.

The Lot 3 site is centrally located in Pottsville in a community hub adjacent to the State Emergency Services, Rural Fire Service and Pre-school and sandwiched between the Tweed Coast Road to the east, the primary school to the north, Pottsville bowls club to the south and Cudgera Creek to the west. It sits outside of the koala linkage corridor and distant from any significant koala activity identified in the Tweed Coast Koala Habitat Study 2011. Attracting koalas to this area would subject them to significant threat of vehicle strike, dog attack and disturbance leading to disease, which are 3 of the major threats to which Ms Vass has referred.

Could Ms Vass please name the ‘at least three other similar suggestions made that would also require clearing koala habitat’? The Threatened Species Conservation Society and other environmental groups are committed to protection, not clearing, of koala habitat.

If the recent decision to install koala signage instead of an underpass (even though an underpass was found to be viable) at Coronation Avenue, Pottsville is an example of the level of koala protection afforded by the Tweed Coast Koala Plan of Management, I have little faith in the Plan’s success to save our endangered local koala population from extinction.

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  1. Mr Norris’s letter really sets out the facts. Lorraine Vass suggests that the Council’s Koala Plan of Management (KPOM) is the best protection for koalas at Black Rocks.

    But the KPOM does not include Black Rocks which has its own, old and outdated plan of management. Lorraine Vass’s assertion that Centennial Drive has the same problems as Black Rocks is not supported by evidence, indeed is contradicted by recent ecological surveys.

    If we are going to save the Koalas from extinction on the north eastern seaboard we are going to have to do better that this. Everyone says they want to save the koalas and will keep saying it until they are extinct on the north eastern seaboard. Then, no doubt there will be much breast beating.

    All of us need to be on the same page. Nothing will save the koalas unless the community stands up and says very loudly that enough is enough.

    The much acclaimed KPOM will enhance the careers of some in local government, it will underpin some doubtlessly valuable grants to organizations who rescue and care for koalas but it will not save them from extinction.

  2. I am aware of both studies and I am aware of the problem of cherry picking the scientific evidence. The arguments against locating infrastructure at Black Rocks may include debated noise impacts but are about all the factors that are leading irrevocably towards the extinction of koalas on the North Coast. Some we know about, many we are ignorant of. Much research needs to be done in order to understand the ecology of the coastal koalas but there is no doubt that koala number are drastically declining.

    Do we continue while Rome burns? Unless we do something, as a community, to preserve the environment that koalas live in whilst supporting sustainable development they will become extinct. We do not have to wait for the science in order to prove what is obvious. We need to get together and plan as a community. Do not assume that the council have the solutions; we need to generate solutions for ourselves together with council; openly and transparently.

  3. Dr Steve Phillips has a vested interest in disagreeing with the koala experts that council have employed. This is due to the fact he is no longer one of them.

    When Dr Steve Phillips was employed by the council he was the head author of the Tweed Coast Koala Plan of Management. If David Norris is unhappy with it he should take this up with him. He also did not see the Black Rocks oval as a major issue. How the only thing that makes his view different for the currently employed koala experts is his NEW view on the Black Rocks oval and a plan to raise a large section of Clothiers Creek Road. The cost to raise the road makes this plan unworkable so he has to push the Black Rocks oval issue.

    This is a classic case of using only information that supports your view and ignoring the rest.

    You don’t need to be a politician to play politics.

  4. Dr Steve Phillips is an honorable man of great integrity. On 30/9/2014 he stated: ‘It has long been my view that the (Black Rocks) sports field area should be rehabilitated because of its location and importance as a central hub for koala movement’.

    He was the director of the Tweed Coast Koala Habitat Study 2011, not the ‘head author of the Tweed Coast Koala Plan of Management’.

    No one, including Dr Phillips, has ever suggested raising a large section of Clothiers Creek Road.

  5. To suggest that Dr Phillips is critical of the Koala Plan of Management because he is no longer employed by council is typical of the sledging of Phillips by the administrators of the KPOM since his very competent criticism of the plan. I don’t agree with everything Dr Phillips says but his criticism of the KPOM highlighted its deficiencies as a plan to save the Tweed koalas from almost certain extinction in the near future. As for the Pottsville koalas, council has just written them off and KPOM administrators have said as much in meetings with community groups.

    If I were a suspicious person I would be looking for linkages between developers and council that are not transparent to the electors. As it is though, I am just confounded by local government’s inertia as koalas progress to extinction. Planting food trees that take twenty years to provide habitat and food will be a bit too late for the koalas on the coast. And all those signs are going to be superfluous when there are no more koalas to read them.

  6. Please find in this link below where Dr Steve Phillips suggested the raising of Clothiers Creek Rd, or I have cut it out for you.

    Dr Phillips urged the introduction of additional protection measures in the three main areas buffering known colonies, including at Kings Forest, Round Mountain-Koala Beach and Pottsville Wetlands.

    He suggested raising Clothiers Creek Rd to allow three to four underpasses, with 3km of fencing to funnel the animals’ movements. Another option is to install a sign which flashes when a koala is present.

    Clothiers Creek Rd was the site of at least eight animal deaths a year with the existing warning sign not succeeding in preventing the carnage.


    Not even his supporters listen to everything he has to say. And as they also don’t fight for the other area he mentions also says a lot to where they live…… maybe next to an oval they don’t want


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