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Byron Shire
July 7, 2022

Lismore council flirts with ‘koala-killer’ status

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This koala was killed by a car last year near the proposed Dunoon dam site. Koalas face many threats, including cars, dogs and disease, but the worst is said to be habitat loss, especially since the Black Summer bushfires. Photo supplied.

The fate of one of the state’s last koala populations appears to lie in the hands of the Lismore City Council after an extraordinary meeting Thursday afternoon.

The council met to discuss three rescission motions, that is, moves to reverse previous council decisions.

Judging by comments on local social media, some observers were growing tired of the new council’s penchant for rescission motions.

The trend started earlier this year, with Independent Councillor Big Rob’s attempt to quash handback of land known as ‘the Sleeping Lizard’ to traditional custodians.

More drama came when a small group led by The Greens called a rescission motion trying to block John Walker’s appointment as General Manager.

The first of Thursday’s three rescission motions came from the mayor.

Housing estate likely to make local koalas extinct

Councillor Steve Kreig wanted a decision from June’s ordinary meeting, just ten days earlier, effectively nulled and for the original item to be deferred until July’s ordinary meeting.

Cr Krieg said he wanted councillors to have more time to allow for ‘clarity’ on the matter, which was a controversial housing estate proposed for Goonellabah.

Although uphill from Lismore and therefore reportedly out of risk of flood and suitable for development in general, the council’s ecologist had found the designs submitted put the local koala population at risk of extinction.

Among other design issues, koala feed trees were at risk with several planned to be removed.

The developer also wanted extra permissions to install infrastructure including a road in an ecologically protected zone.

Lismore mayor refuses to enforce koala-friendly designs

Mayor Steve Krieg focusing on something more positive (a free concert) than the prospect of koala extinction under his watch. Photo Tree Faerie.

Councillors had agreed, after much debate and hearing several passionate speakers against the development application from the public gallery, to refuse the designs as submitted.

They had also agreed the developer was welcome to amend the designs to be more eco-friendly.

But it seemed that suggestion wasn’t enough for the mayor.

‘We’re in a national and international housing crisis,’ Cr Krieg said, ‘and for us to send a message that we’re knocking every development back sends a bad sign’.

The mayor said he cared about koalas and following proper procedure.

‘If it’s a question of procedure for developer to resubmit, then I’m happy to follow procedure,’ Cr Krieg said.

Proper procedure, according to the council’s June decision, was indeed for the developer to resubmit, given their first application was refused.

But as Cr Krieg presumably knew, his rescission motion meant that decision could be nulled and the final decision on that same application delayed another few weeks.

The developer would then presumably continue waiting rather than work on more eco-friendly designs for the estate.

Goonellabah koala habitat some of the last left

Aside from his desire to help address a housing crisis through more development, it was unclear what prompted the mayor to block attempts at a koala-friendly housing project.

Councillors occasionally mentioned whether or not they thought dogs were allowed on the estate, remembering dogs are said to be one of five major contributors to koala deaths.

Getting hit trying to cross the road is another one and apparently roads in the estate have been designed with that in mind.

Chlamydia is another, fortunately less applicable factor in Lismore, although climate events like bushfires are relevant, if more difficult to mitigate in a housing development.

But habitat destruction outside of climate events is a major factor within human control and one that several speakers against the proposed estate in its current design highlighted.

Koalas on the East coast of Australia were recently upgraded in terms of their species vulnerability to endangered, and the small population in Goonellabah is said to be one of the state’s last.

Cr Bird warns of self-inflicted ‘koala killer’ name curse

Cr Elly Bird.

Independent Cr Elly Bird said the decision was an issue of national significance and question why the developer hadn’t already resubmitted a koala-friendly design.

‘Here in Lismore we have the responsibility to look after a bunch of koalas who live here beside us,’ Cr Bird said, ‘we don’t want to have a name that sticks of “koala killers”’.

In a convoluted bureaucratic twist to get what the mayor wanted, a 5-4 majority of councillors won a proposal he put forward instead of the rescission motion: to have the original matter deferred until July.

Members of Cr Krieg’s six-person team voted in support: Crs Andrew Bing, Peter Colby, Andrew Gordon and Jeri Hall.

The sixth member, Cr Electra Jensen, was absent, after previously voting against the DA along with Crs Krieg and Peter Colby.

Greens Crs Adam Guise and Vanessa Ekins voted against, along with Labor’s Cr Darlene Cook and Our Sustainable Future member Cr Elly Bird.

Independent Cr Big Rob was also absent but at the ordinary June meeting voted in support of the original DA.

The council could have deferred the matter at that meeting had it been the preferred option but at the time, the council seemed keen to want to give the developer clear direction.

Until a decision on the DA is made, no houses will be built on the land in question and no certainty over the council’s commitment to koala protection provided.


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11 COMMENTS

    • The Panda is another animal they have no way to count. For the first 80 years after it’s discovery, people still thought it a myth and many failed expeditions were mounted to find that grass eating bear. Just because you never see an animal, doesn’t mean they aren’t there, they just don’t like humans.

  1. What about the other 500 tree rat colonies that aren’t anywhere people live, and thus are not know about.

  2. Echo folks, you really need to do some basic research – the Goonellabah koala population is not one of the last in the state. Please get your facts right – there are many koala populations in NSW. Admittedly many are not in a great position, but to reach for the koala hyperbole you have used is a gross simplification, and just plain wrong. Your readers deserve better.

  3. Who said habitat loss is the worst threat?

    Not the science, that’s for sure.

    Science says habitat loss has been the worst threat in the past, but climate change has now overtaken it as the biggest threat.

    Which is clear, given how much tallowwood and red gum forest sits empty (or near empty) of koalas in the upper Richmond valley.

    No lack of perfect habitat there, species-wise, but no longer a viable habitat after too many exyreme hot/dry summers 2017-19

  4. One of the last colonies, really what a a load of unmitigated garbage who dreams this rubbish up.
    Where’s the hard evidence to back this up and by that I mean peer reviewed scientific research!

  5. Lismore is too big already!…why not put a new town of houses between lismore and Nimbin?..using sustainable,environmentally technologies??….100 acres of cow grazing land should just about do it…sold on a “rent to buy” contract….c mon,you know it makes sense.

  6. Very revealing of the Mayor’s true colours. What is his mandate? I’ve heard only about 35% actually voted in the council elections. I do remember reading in the Echo that he didn’t see climate action as an important issue. Much less species extinction.

  7. This is one of the worst written articles I have ever read, I would consider it to be propaganda, full of outlandish statements.

    Some of the facts:
    – the land is zoned for residential.
    – the DA had a BDAR assessment that was approved by the state government, these are extremely advanced ecological assessments.
    – the DA was recommended for approval by Council staff.
    – there are hectares and hectares of koala habitat in the surrounding hills, this proposal is mostly located on paddock with a very small number of trees to be removed and has a large regeneration area.

    I don’t get the Lismore Greens, Adam Guise put up a motion for a land swap at the last meeting, now hes protesting against a residential development in a residential zone, where is this land swap meant to be going ? How can lismore move forward if we can’t even build houses in an existing residential zone?

    Echo please hire new reporters or train up your existing ones. Please report the facts not this absolute rubbish. I am a wildlife carer myself I do care about koalas and other wildlife, but we also must provide housing for people. You will have another report tomorrow talking about homelessness and no affordable housing…

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