Protection strategies for koalas living near the Ballina section of the Pacific Highway upgrade are nothing more than ‘government spin designed to disguise the likely extinction of a local population recognised as nationally significant’.
The Australians for Animals group has slammed a report prepared by the NSW Chief Scientist saying the review committee was dominated by bureaucrats, with no community organisations or non-government organisations represented.
Australians for Animals coordinator Sue Arnold condemned the report as ‘smoke and mirrors’, saying the document contained recommendations that are incapable of providing protection for remaining koalas and their habitats.
Ms Arnold has pointed to an independent review of the RMS’s koala plans for the Ballina upgrade by local ecologist David Milledge.
Mr Milledge wrote: ‘This section of the upgrade will destroy koala habitat, bisect the population and cause its early demise’.
‘So-called mitigation measures are untested and likely to accelerate the destruction,’ Mr Milledge said.
‘With curious logic, the construction is heralded by the RMS as beneficial to koalas, claiming the road-works will slow the rate of eventual extinction’.
Mr Milledge’s review concludes that Ballina’s eastern sub-population of koalas would suffer a combination of impacts caused by the construction.
‘This sup-population will be isolated by the upgrade, placing the animals on an extinction trajectory from which the population is unlikely to recover,’ he said.
‘The eastern sub-population will have half or more of its foraging habitat destroyed by clearing for road construction and special disruption is likely within the eastern sub population resulting from the breakup of Koala “ cells” that are likely to contribute to population breakdown.
‘The potential for mortality by vehicle strike and dog attacks will be increased with exclusion fencing which will funnel Koalas into the Wardell urban area with increased risks.
‘Of major concern is the intention by RMS to use an untested experiment to drive Koalas from their home range trees which are to be felled. The RMS will collar and ring-bark feed trees to “ encourage” Koalas to move to other areas. These “ other areas” are not identified.”