Sunday saw between 60 to 80 people gathered, with Bangalow Koalas, on Rifle Range Road in Bangalow to highlight the dangers of the unapproved clearing done by the owner of 99 Acres on the local koala corridor.
‘The top of Rifle Range Rd is a crucial link and the start of our Koala Wildlife Corridor that has grown exponentially over the past four years,’ said president of Bangalow Koalas, Linda Sparrow.
According to Bangalow Koalas the development application (DA) that 99 Acres has put into Byron Shire Council, and is currently on exhibition, proposes to move the existing driveway to facilitate building a new house on the property. The new driveway is proposed alongside the koala corridor within the 20m exclusion zone that is required around koala trees under the Byron Shire Council’s DCP (development control plan) that included this area as of 10 December, 2020.
The owner of 99 Acres started clearing within the koala corridor, on crown land, without consent just under two weeks according to Bangalow Koalas president, Linda Sparrow.
‘A stop work was issued personally by council yesterday (Thursday, 28 January) – late [that day] work was still continuing and council were alerted. This landowner was serially non-compliant under the previous DA they had for four tourist cabins in 2017. When the four tourist cabins were put on the property several years ago there were restrictions put on the title so that they can’t do any work around the koala corridor.
‘Now they have cleared camphor and other trees on council land to facilitate their driveway before their DA has had submissions close or is approved. They have cleared up to only meters away from where koala trees have been planted as part of the conditions of his [the owners] last DA,’ Ms Sparrow pointed out.
Local resident and active member of Bangalow Koalas Peter Doherty told those gathered that this site was Bangalow Koalas ‘heartland, our genesis. I live here and I thought “wow” they are in my backyard and this is where Banglaow Koalas started. We are definitely here [today] because of koalas.’
Some people there claimed that as it was only camphor that was cleared, and it is a weed, that therefore there was no issue with clearing it. However, Ms Sparrow pointed out that camphor trees play an important role as transition and shade trees in the koala corridor.
‘When you are looking to remove them this has to be planned and have suitable trees available to replace them,’ said Ms Sparrow.
During the 200m that the group walked they spotted two koalas. The second one, which was ill with conjunctivitis, was in a camphor tree next to the area that had been cleared.
It is clearly established that the reduction in habitat through clearing and the impact of human habitation has had a serious impact on koalas numbers and health. Prior to the devastating and unprecedented bushfires last year they species was already listed as ‘threatened’ and scientists were predicting that NSW koalas would be gone by 2050 if serious action was not taken to protect them.
According to National Geographic ‘A report released June 30 by the New South Wales parliament estimates that the bushfires killed at least 5,000 koalas – as much as a third of the state population – and that the fires destroyed 24 per cent of koala habitat on public lands’.
Comment on DA
Bangalow Koalas are calling on concerned locals to take a look at the DA online at Byron Shire Council and put in submissions.
‘The current DA will cut through a vital link in the koala corridor and increase the amount of traffic that will be accessing the site in a highly sensitive area in all likelihood leading to an increase in koala deaths,’ said Ms Sparrow.
While the submission closing date is 2 February Byron Shire Council have confirmed with The Echo online that they will be accepting late submissions.
To find out about the submission process look for Bangalow Koalas Facebook page or look at the DA for 75 Rifle Range Rd, Bangalow 2479 NSW (LOT: 39 DP: 625255) and to make a submission.
♦ The owner of 99 Acres, Barry Wain, declined to comment.