Recently a small group calling themselves Passionate Planet Protectors gathered at the Cumbebin Swamp Nature Reserve to protest the Byron bypass which they say will cut through pristine paperbark forest that is filled with an abundance of wildlife including koalas.
The Cumbebin Swamp Nature Reserve, which is only a few hundred metres away, is protected and the protesters feel that this area should be a protected nature reserve too.
Protest organiser Sherrie Yeomans says that she loves the idea that a koala reserve has been planned in Ewingsdale. ‘The reality is it’s 17 years before a koala can eat the trees that are planted, and one koala needs many trees a year to survive.
‘It is imperative we protect the koalas in their natural habitat first and foremost. At the current rate I believe extinction is likely by 2050.’
The Passionate Planet Protectors believe that: bulldozing 1.5 hectares of protected wooded wetland and koala habitat is not okay; the bypass project has had ‘limited, to no’ formal Community Consultation as a Major Works and Infrastructure Project that will disrupt thousands of local residents and cost ratepayers millions of dollars; Greens MP Tamara Smith won the seat for Ballina again in the recent 2019 State Elections and opposes the project for many reasons, including the loss of habitat, opposition to bio-banking, cost, and the disruption to residents for many years to come; and, some estimates of a $40 million true cost of the project will require far more than the $5 million input from Byron Shire ratepayers on top of the nearly $20 million input from NSW NLP government.
Ms Yeomans says that in November 2018, Byron Shire Council passed a motion to act in ‘Climate Emergency (State of)’, which she says means that Council should be allocating all funds and energy toward protecting the community, ecological assets, existing infrastructure and investments from the impending impacts of climate change rather than allocating funds and energy to projects such as the bypass that are Regional Growth investments.
‘On Thursday, April 18, only two councillors remained in opposition to the project,’ she said. ‘Cr. Cate Coorey and Cr. Basil Cameron. Cr. Jan Hacket and Cr. Paul Spooner after many years of opposition, crossed the floor to join Acting Mayor Michael Lyon, allowing the project to go ahead. Will this be a Byron Bay, gold plated, $25-40million pothole in five years time?’
Ms Yeomans and the Passionate Planet Protectors are definite in their ideas about what should happen to the area. ‘It is imperative we protect the koalas in their natural habitat first and foremost’.