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Byron Shire
June 23, 2024

New Ballina Council supports Wollongbar Wildlife Hospital

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House on proposed site of future Wollongbar Wildlife Hospital. Photo David Lowe.

The Northern Rivers Wildlife Hospital planned for Lindendale Road, Wollongbar, is a step closer to becoming a reality after Ballina Council voted to allow the idea to proceed to a development application.

The original proposal has been scaled down and access routes modified after concerns about extra cars coming through the nearby intersection with the Bruxner Highway.

Intersection Lindendale Road and Bruxner Highway. Photo David Lowe.

Councillors heard a passionate deputation from local builder Bruce Kemp, who said he supported the idea of the animal hospital but felt this was the wrong location, claiming the extra traffic from the facility was a matter of life and death for him, his family and neighbours.

He said the intersection was already very dangerous and becoming more so, especially for people with trailers. ‘It is putting our lives in danger,’ he said.

Another deputation came from farmer and lawyer Sue Higginson, speaking in support of the project, which was the first business item of the new council. ‘We live in one of the most biodiverse rich areas in Australia,’ she said. ‘Unfortunately, our wildlife is suffering… and it’s struggling significantly.’

Sue Higginson. Photo David Lowe

Ms Higginson said the case for the wildlife hospital was overwhelming, with 10,000 animals rescued across the region in one year, but most of those animals being euthanased due to distant or inadequate care.

She said there had been bipartisan support for the wildlife hospital for many years, with the state government supporting the site (on DPI Crown Land) along with $100,000 seed funding. She explained there was now half a million dollars ready to spend on the next stage.


Alternative proposed routes to and from wildlife hospital. Ballina Council.

Regarding the traffic issue, Sue Higginson acknowledged the nearby intersection was dangerous but said no fatalities had been recorded there, and few accidents.

She said the revised plan was to use the DPI access road to take traffic away from the contentious intersection, with the original hospital proposal now downgraded to have fewer projected car movements, and no education facility.

Speaking about the estimated one billion native animals that perished in the last bushfires, Ms Higginson said, ‘Our project is going to make a massive contribution, and difference. This will be a fabulous project for Ballina Shire.’

Cr Rod Bruem. Photo David Lowe.

Speaking in support, Cr Rod Bruem said Ballina Council could not let important projects needed by the community be held up because roads and planning were ‘not where they should be’.

Cr Phil Meehan took the opposing view, saying he was not prepared to risk one human life for the animal hospital, saying he supported the view of traffic engineers who questioned whether people would use the alternate exit through DPI land.

Speaking in support of the motion, Cr Eoin Johnston said the shire was unfortunately full of dangerous intersections.

Wildlife for the win

Cr Jeff Johnson. Photo David Lowe.

Cr Jeff Johnson said it was fitting that council follow up their acknowledgement of ‘warrior for the koalas’ Maria Matthes as Citizen of the Year on Australia Day with support for the new wildlife hospital.

‘The public benefit from this proposal far outweighs that very small increase in the traffic numbers going to that dangerous intersection,’ he said.

‘The applicant has worked with council to put together a traffic management with detailed instructions and conditions for their staff to avoid that intersection.’

Wollongbar Wildlife Hospital site showing proposed access through DPI land at rear. Photo David Lowe.

Cr Johnson said the location was ‘an ideal spot from a wildlife hospital perspective. I’m really pleased that it looks like we’re going to be able to move forward with this and hopefully get the DA approved sometime in the near future.’

In the end, all councillors voted in favour of the wildlife hospital proceeding, apart from Crs Eva Ramsey and Phillip Meehan.

Council also resolved to restart lobbying efforts with government in relation to improving the nearby intersection., which is planned to be bypassed at some stage in the future.

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  1. The mere fact that the animals can’t figure out to stay away from roads after a century of cars, tells you why you why you are suppose to prioritize human lives.

  2. Chris what a bunch of bollocks. Wildlife mostly are nocturnal & their eyes are adapted to minimal light not car headlights. That is an evolutionary process, BUT remarkably human primates STILL CAN NOT NAVIGATE roads/ freeways or even roundabouts. So I wonder if you demonstrate such little regard for human primate children who often get killed or injured on roads, as they too obviously haven’t figured out how to stay away from cars ?? Actually many adult humans also get this wrong. However, many wild animals HAVE managed to learn to avoid cars but they are diurnal (look it up) . Prioritising human primate lives has GOT US INTO THIS MESS, have you noticed ? So until our homo centric species can actually learn to live with wildlife /understand them & their needs & at worst tolerate these amazing creatures we are doomed. Humans are NOT special, we are not remarkable & we are no more important than any other species. In fact I’d say less important, because WE have destroyed our once healthy & well balanced ecology, no native animal has EVER done that. Clever aren’t we …..NOT !

  3. Another wildlife hospital to make us, especially the so called independent tories on council to sound like they care about the environment and wildlife. No going into the issues of why we need these projects, Band-Aid solutions to a much larger issue- habitat destruction.

  4. A pity councils aren’t as concerned about hospitals and health care for humans. Our health system is in a shambles. Great to see the fire brigade having to respond nearly every day to residents in Alstonville because we have no ambulance station on The Plateau. Council just allows more and more development without any infrastructure to support it.


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