An animal activist has accused two National Party MPs of ‘misleading the public’ over claims the RMS has revegetated more than a hundred hectares of land along the Pacific Highway Ballina upgrade route with tens of thousands of koala feed trees.
In recent weeks both roads minister Melinda Pavey and north coast MLC Ben Franklin have made public statements regarding the re-vegetation of koala habitat at Meerschaum Vale to compensate for the damage caused by the highway upgrade construction.
On February 3, Minister Pavey said in a press release that ‘the government had re-vegetated 130 hectares of land with 95,000 koala feed trees.’
Then on February 9, Mr Franklin said that ‘about 110 hectares, equating to 80,000 koala food trees had so far been planted and there were plans to plant another 20 hectares as part of the Woolgoolga to Ballina Upgrade.’
But co-ordinator of Australians For Animals, Sue Arnold, told Echonetdaily she took a field trip to the re-vegetation site earlier this week, which ‘revealed an empty paddock with no koala feed trees planted in spite of a sign indicating that the planting was part of a “130 hectares of Koala Food Trees planted”.’
Ms Arnold said she was unable to find any other planting sites in the vicinity.
‘Not only has the public been mislead over the supposed re-vegetation, but the minister and Mr Franklin have failed to indicate that any planting is comprised of tube stock and that it takes seven years before any surviving tube stock is suitable as a feed tree,’ Ms Arnold said.
‘In the very hot summer we’re experiencing, tube stock needs to be regularly watered and cared for.
She urged the minister to visit the section 10 site and ‘see for herself the failures of the RMS to protect koalas now and in the future’.
She added the minister had ‘also failed to advise the pubic that connectivity overpasses, which are required under the conditions of approval on Wardell and Old Bagotville Road, have not been constructed leaving koalas and other wildlife exposed to heavy construction traffic.’
‘Minister Pavey’s assertion that signs with flashing lights are the best mitigation measure she can produce is unacceptable.
Parliamentary inquiry call
‘It’s really about time that the minister along with Mr Franklin and [federal MP for Page] Kevin Hogan visited the site, listened to the people living there who are drowning in dust and noise and were made aware of the death toll for wildlife.
‘The management of section 10 of the Highway Upgrade is a disgrace and deserving of a Parliamentary inquiry, ’ Ms Arnold said.
Ben Franklin’s office was contacted for comment but failed to respond to Echonetdaily’s request.