By Luis Feliu
Survival of endangered koalas in and around the Cudgen Nature Reserve next to the proposed Kings Forest township would be threatened under a plan by the developer to reduce offset habitat and food trees.
Tweed Shire Council planners say they have major concerns over the plan by Leda to modify conditions of consent set by the state government over koala management at the huge site on the Tweed Coast.
Councillors next week will debate the issue before sending the state planning department a report prepared by council planners critical of the proposed changes.
Council planners in their report said the revised plan is ‘fundamentally inconsistent’ with the state conditions of the Kings Forest concept plan for around 5,000 homes.
They say that if approved, it would see a ‘worse outcome’ for koalas.
The developer wants to ‘substantially’ reduce reduce the area for koala habitat offsets yet planners say many areas proposed as offsets overlap with existing habitat and ‘such areas do not represent genuine offsets’.
The report says the proposed koala offsets include a large proportion of secondary rather than primary koala habitat.
‘This will do little to increase koala numbers,’ it said.
‘Koala offsetting should focus on creating primary koala habitat which involves creating vegetation communities that support a high proportion of preferred koala food trees.’
The revised plan also does away with traffic calming measures, only partially implements the required east-west wildlife corridor, and removes fencing and underpasses where roads traverse environmental areas.
‘These measures will make koalas and other fauna vulnerable to road strike,’ planners said in their assessment of the plan which councilors will debate at their planning committee meeting next Thursday in Murwillumbah.
Theysaid the proposed koala plan of management also does not provide for any management of existing koala habitat and there are no specific provisions to manage the potential impacts of bushfire on koala ‘even though this is a major threat to the Tweed Coast koalas’.
The developer also seeks to amend the timing and sequencing of koala habitat offsets.
‘This would potentially allow these works to commence before the KPoM and the related environmental management plans were finalised.
‘These changes would potentially also permit clearing to occur in advance of the delivery of the required offsets.’