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January 18, 2022

Greens MPs call for greater koala protection

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Tree clearing and trucks are causing havoc on wildlife, opponents of the Pacific Highway upgrade, say. Meerschaum Vale tree clearing (Credit: Graeme Williams)
Tree clearing and trucks are causing havoc on wildlife, opponents of the Pacific Highway upgrade, say. Meerschaum Vale tree clearing (Credit: Graeme Williams)MPs

Ballina Greens MP Tamara Smith has called on the NSW Government to do more to protect koalas and other wildlife in the path of the Pacific Highway upgrade.

With tree clearing now underway at Meerschaum Vale, Ms Smith said she had been told by residents that dead or injured koalas and other wildlife were being found almost daily.

‘The residents have also been told that contractors are not allowed to touch any injured animals they see.’

Ms Smith said there appeared to be no process for the RMS or its contractors to count the koalas and other wildlife that were killed or injured by tree clearing and an increase in truck movements.

Koala in a tree at Meerschaum Vale (credit: Heather Dunn)
Koala in a tree at Meerschaum Vale (credit: Heather Dunn)

‘I have visited Meerschaum Vale and met with residents multiple times in the past two years and I have seen the impact of the preparation for the highway upgrade on the wildlife and on the lives of the residents.  I have made many representations on the community’s behalf about the effects of this highway upgrade to the RMS and to the Minister for Roads.

‘I cannot state how strongly this upgrade is affecting the lives of residents with problems with dust, vibration, noise and traffic.’

‘I call on the NSW government to get a proper process of wildlife monitoring in place and employ animal rescue staff to save injured koalas and other endangered species.’

Greens MP and Koala Protection spokesperson, Dawn Walker has joined the call for better koala management in RMS construction areas.

‘I share the concerns of the residents and Ballina MP, Tamara Smith, about the impacts of the road construction through such a formerly low traffic area. The large increase in truck traffic and dust from preparations for the Pacific Highway upgrade in the area has had negative effects on the local Ballina koala population,’ said Ms Walker.

‘I joined residents and local environmentalists on the site of the highway upgrade last week and the massive scenes of environmental devastation I saw can only be described as ‘ecocide’.

Dawn Walker recently met with Kevin Anderson, Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Roads, activist Sue Arnold and koala expert ecologist David Milledge to discuss koalas.

‘This is a Government that has an appalling record when it comes to protecting our koalas. Koalas on the North Coast have almost halved over the last 20 years, it’s vital that we started recognising and protecting each koala population especially as they become more fragmented by roads and have less opportunity to recover as their numbers decline,’ Mr Walker said.

  • Echonetdaily will be speaking with the head of the Pacific Highway upgrade, Bob Higgins, at 1.30pm today. 


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  1. This story and the photo of the clearing is deeply disturbing, but entirely predictable and predicted.

    The photo shows an area where numerous koalas would move from the swamp mahogany forests on the floodplain of Bingall Creek to foothill forests dominated by forest red gum and the ridgetop forests of Buckombil Mountain and the Blackwall Range dominated by tallowood. The nationally important population of Koalas in this landscape will be made extinct by the hideous actions of the RMS.

    RTA/RMS and Mr Higgins have been clearly and specifically informed of all the conservation values of this nationally significant landscape since December 2004.

    In the decision-making process for building this highway no value was placed on biodiversity, resulting in a route that clears and fragments the largest remaining patches of remnant vegetation in Ballina Shire and is around 3km longer than the existing (straight and flat) highway route..

    Possibly the greatest tragedy of this highway deviation is that this route completely encircles and craps upon the incredible wetlands of the Ngunya-Jargoon Indigenous Protected Area. This will cause major impacts on the health of the Richmond River – already a very very sick place….

    • Couldn’t agree more with Mark

      The fact that this route was chosen and how it came about to be chosen should be the subject of an independent investigation . Another concern Is the Federal Minister signing off on the Ballina Bypass and wildlife destruction it allegedly in his first day in office.

      Th Health of the Richmond River SHOULD be a major concern for NSW government. The terrible condition of the river result s from decades of neglect by conservative government and their bureaucrats along the full length of the Richmond and its tributaries.

      The devistation of native habitate from the feed in streams to Ballina is a major contributor to the destruction of River water quality etc. The recent land clearing laws passed and implemented by LNP and friends in MLC will foreseeable cause further deterioration of the river.

  2. Do we know how many Koalas have been killed in construction related activities on the new highway upgrades. Are RMS keeping an account? If not can they?

  3. I went there today along old Bagotville road,

    Its a bit of a dead zone no wildlife . birds , insects nothing, the clearing of the forests is massive, more than even a lot of mining operations I have witnessed

    So over the top, from the jokers who cant even run a train from Casino to M’wbah,

    I have noted in my dealings with RMS that they generally choose the route with the more challenging engineering options, that cause the most environmental and cultural damage.

    This usually entails extra distance at greater expense. And that is it in a nutshell,

    Tax payer funded wildlife slaughter and eco destruction,

    Weird isnt it the contractors are working flat out so fast that they can collect there bonuses, and there is simply no time to collect the corpses let alone make a record, which when you see it out on site are simply burned, ground up and/or buried,

    • Of course the Jokers can run a train from Casino to Murbah – but they are not so stupid as to waste hundreds of millions of dollars in capital costs and millions more a year on a rail service that would not serve the households and destinations of most of the elderly and other transport dependent people in our region, would provide a poorer service to those who do live along the line than regualr buses could, would reduce fewer than 2% of the cars on our roads, would use as much fuel per passenger as any of those cars, and would be more dangerous to animals than road vehicles on a comparable fenced corridor as trains cannot stop as quickly. You are welcome to comment on the alignment and its relative impact on koalas, but the majority of people have no alternative but to travel by road and wish to do so safely and they would not want to return to the dangerous Pacific Highway of the past, a road that claimed far more lives, human or animals than this one ever will.

  4. Nothing less than a Royal Commission will be satisfactory. Trouble is, no political party is calling for one.
    With only one koala rescuer on the ground, no facilities on site for injured or traumatised wildlife, massive noise from the heavy machinery, dust clouds drowning the remaining forest and animals, 300 heavy vehicles a day thundering up and down a small local road, lack of monitoring, major non compliance, this is the NSW version of Adani. And it is not getting the attention the war zone so desperately deserves.

    • Yes Sue it really is the NSW equivalent of Adani. The destruction is not limited to Ballina – the current destruction of bushland east of Grafton is on an even greater scale and in a landscape with the record number of threatened species in NSW – with over 110 threatened species impacted…

  5. It will be very interesting to read a report of what Mr Higgins said at 1:30pm today.

    Prior to any such reports, I think it essential to reiterate my earlier comments and provide clarity on this matter: Mr Higgins has been aware since December 2004.of the nationally significant conservation values of the area now being destroyed. That is, almost 13 years of knowing that building a highway along this route will cause the local extinction of Koalas, will destroy many other remarkable elements of our natural heritage, and will further pollute the very sick Richmond River..

    Wilful, intentional, single-minded, and unnecessary destruction of our life support systems and of Bundjalung cultural heritage, or what, Mr Higgins?

    There is lots of Koala blood now flowing as a consequence of this misplaced infrastructure.. and no Koala blood needed to flow for a safe upgrade of the highway.. The current highway is approximately 3km shorter than the route now being built – this route has little impact on Koala habitat, biodiversity or cultural heritage.

    I am sure that history will not kindly judge this whole sordid affair.. and I shed many many tears for the Koalas, Potoroos and others amazing critters being f&*^ed over right now and for the loss of intactness and health of this precious fragment of the Bundjalung nation..

  6. It’s a travesty. A disgrace. So let’s come up with solutions. I’ve seen a few cane farms for sale along there – they’re enormous opportunities; as they are, they provide no actual benefits beyond those to the farm owners and operators, government included. Let’s join together, start a fundraising campaign. If this all started back in 2004, what the hell have you’ve been waiting for?


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