Tarring of Point Plomer Road at Crescent Head begins on Monday, but residents and Dunghutti elders say Council has ignored their concerns about koala habitat and Aboriginal heritage sites.
Kempsey Shire Council received $2.88 million from the NSW Government’s Regional Growth – Environment and Tourism Fund for construction and sealing work on the gravel section of Point Plomer Road.
The Crescent Head Residents and Ratepayers Association is planning a Sunday protest, saying in a press release: ‘Tarring a road inevitably results in vehicles driving at faster speeds, increasing the likelihood of accidents, and roadkill – including our beloved Koalas’.
Jye Palise from the CHRRA said of Council: ‘They’ve always known there there’s been koalas there and the [Port Macquarie] Koala Hospital has release sites down that road.’
In December, the NSW Government designated the Point Plomer Road area as an ‘area of regional koala significance’.
Mr Palise said: ‘It doesn’t make sense why state government would give them funding for a road through pristine koala habitat.’
But the Council says the current gravel road does more environmental harm than a tarred road would, due to the regular grading required, dust generation, and motorists often travelling along the roadside verges.
In a statement, Robert Fish, Director Operations and Planning told Echonetdaily: ‘Occasional Koala feed trees occur throughout the site, however no koala feed trees will be removed for the proposal. The reduction in dust following sealing will improve the surrounding environment and habitat.’
‘Traffic warning signage alerting drivers to fauna will be in place on completion of the works.’
Speed humps for the road are not planned, Mr Fish confirmed.
Dunghutti concerned for artefacts
Mr Fish also refuted that Aboriginal heritage would be disturbed.
‘In completing the approved Review of Environmental Factors, specialist consultants GHD engaged a specialist Aboriginal heritage consultant to identify any Aboriginal heritage sites and examine any effects on sites that may exist within the project area. This included an inspection of the road corridor with a Site Officer of the Local Aboriginal Land Council. It was found that the sealing of the road would not have a significant effect on the environment or impact heritage sites.’
However, Dunghutti elder James Dungay said Council had not consulted with the Dunghutti Elders Council or the Kempsey Local Aboriginal Land Council before the decision was made to tar the road.
Dunghutti people have opposed tarring the road since it was first proposed in 2004.
‘The tarring is a precedent for development,’ Mr Dungay said.
‘The biggest fear we have is the destruction of Aboriginal sites that are unseen, that are unregistered. There may have been a reason for people to not talk about our sites, to try and protect them,’ Mr Dungay said.
Aboriginal artefacts located near Point Plomer Road have included middens, fish traps and carved trees, while on Racecourse Headland subterranean studies have found carvings and wooden musical instruments.
A protest is planned at Crescent Head Hall on Sunday 7 February at 10am, followed by a 12pm BBQ and picnic.
The NSW Government did not respond to a request for comment.