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Byron Shire
February 27, 2021

RMS builds ‘death traps’ for Ballina koalas

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The RMS designed koala escape route that would require them to climb up a sloping ramp and then jump to safety. Photo Sue Arnold
The RMS designed koala escape route that would require them to climb up a sloping ramp and then jump to safety. Photo Sue Arnold

Sue Arnold, Australians for Animals Inc.

With the Ballina Pacific Highway Upgrade poised to begin operations, scientists, community organisations, and environmental groups are horrified by the devices put in place by the RMS to change wildlife behaviour.

A number of what can only be described as death-trap grids have been placed in sections of the now-fenced Old Bagotville Road together with ‘escape hutches’, which defy description. The grids are designed in such a way that any small animal such as a potoroo, or a goanna could easily become trapped with no possibility of escape. Wallabies and koalas are likely to have similar problems.

The hutches are supposed to ensure that if an animal does get trapped on the road, or flees from the surrounding bushland because of noise and project activities, it can climb up the slippery boards and make a death-defying leap into the bushland.

The NSW Scientific Committee has just released a preliminary judgement, which finds the Wardell potoroo population should be listed as an endangered population under the Threatened Species Act. The committee estimates the population is fewer than 250 animals.

The RMS grid to stop koala movement, which Australians for Animals says could catch them instead of saving them. Photo Sue Arnold
The RMS grid to stop koala movement, which Australians for Animals says could catch them instead of saving them. Photo Sue Arnold

According to the Scientific Committee, ‘ the proposed realignment of the Pacific Highway to the western boundary (of the potoroo habitat) will reduce the extent of suitable habitat and further impede movement to nearby vegetated areas. A road corridor could also lead to an increase in the incidence of fire, road mortality (depending on the effectiveness of fauna connectivity measures), weed invasion, and potentially exacerbate impacts from introduced predators such as foxes and cats.

David Milledge, a local ecologist with long experience with potoroos, provided the committee with advice. On viewing the grids and escape hutches, he described them as ‘appalling and untested for impacts’.

Koala feed and shelter trees have been collared, preventing not only koalas but any tree dwelling creatures from accessing trees. Locals estimate that as many as 80 trees have so far been collared.

None of these devices – collars, escape hutches and wide grids – have been used in any other development.

In essence, the RMS is experimenting on Ballina/Wardell wildlife with no base line data that assesses the impacts. There is no provision for monitoring the grids and escape hutches to ensure injured animals are not trapped.

The metal collars around koala feed trees earmarked for destruction by the RMS. Photo Sue Arnold
The metal collars around koala feed trees earmarked for destruction by the RMS. Photo Sue Arnold

Locals estimate 900 vehicle movements a day will plough through koala and potoroo habitat.

Given the NSW Government’s Save our Species Programme, the Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade makes a mockery of any proposal to protect vulnerable and endangered species. The koala population at Ballina has been designated a significant population. Research commissioned for Australians for Animals Inc by David Milledge demonstrates that the southeastern population is predicted to go extinct as a result of the upgrade.

Now it would appear that not only koalas but also potoroos are threatened with extinction. Designated a State Significant Infrastructure, legal challenges are not permitted.

Instead, the community will be forced to witness an impending carnage of wildlife.

 


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10 COMMENTS

  1. This stinks, can’t somebody do something about it, to make the wildlife safe. These people that come up with these ideas make me sick to my stomach.

  2. Who at the RMS is responsible for these death traps? They must be held to account and the “escape route devices replaced with appropriate alternatives, suitable for Koala use to save themselves without sustaining potentially life-threatening injuries. Who approved these devices specifically for Koalas in this location under the conditions in which they must provide a safe escape route?.
    Why do these people not care about native habitat? Perhaps they have missed out on an education or only received the bean counting kind. Shame!

  3. Economy over environment yet again.

    I don’t understand why feed trees have been collared? There was an alternative route available for the upgrade that would have had minimal impact on these populations, and it was blatantly dismissed as not viable. Money wins again. I am hopeful that, despite the suggestion of the article, some research will be comissioned to evaluate the impacts of these ‘protection’ measures.

  4. So the collars on trees are to stop koalas climbing up them? That’s absurdly bad.
    And RMS =?rural management something?
    (For those of us not in NSW or even Australia, please spell out the acronyms first use.)

  5. The NSW Government and Ballina highway upgrade have a responsibility to act in integrity and protect the wildlife as a priority here.

  6. this corrupt government was voted in by the people of Ballina and surrounds. It is time for them to vote them OUT.

    • Our local member is from the Greens. I think the sensibility of the electorate is reflected in this choice. We did NOT vote for this Government.

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