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February 24, 2024

Ballina Shire to trial virtual fencing to reduce roadkill

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Signs erected by Bangalow Koalas last year warning drivers to slowdown. Photo supplied

Virtual fencing aimed at reducing wildlife deaths on roads is to be trialled in the Ballina Shire, pending funding, after a unanimous vote at last month’s ordinary council meeting.

Greens Councillor Kiri Dicker moved the idea with Independent Cr Jeff Johnson seconding.

Cr Dicker’s agenda notes said previous trials of virtual fencing in other local government areas around the country had produced mixed results.

Examples cited ranged from a 70% reduction in wallaby strikes in Queensland’s Logan City to a 2020 Redland City Council trial, also in Queensland, that found virtual fencing did not reduce vehicle strikes of wallabies over the two-year study period.

Other mitigation techniques such as LED signage, verge clearance, education and social media posts were reportedly used as well as the virtual fencing in Logan City, whereas any other mitigation techniques used in Redland City were unlisted.

Virtual fencing only effective in certain conditions

A young wallaby recovering after undergoing surgery for a leg injury. (Photo Annie Crowley)

Authors of a report on the Redland trial said exactly how virtual fencing devices were meant to work was ambiguous, as they potentially operated ‘as a conditioned secondary stimulus’.

Virtual fencing might, for example, warn animals of an approaching vehicle by detecting car lights, the authors said.

Or they ‘may also elicit escape responses because the warning stimuli themselves are in some way aversive’, the report said.

Cr Dicker said in her notes one of the reasons for the variance in results was that the effectiveness of virtual fencing was highly dependent on location.

‘Virtual fencing is thought to be less effective in more urban areas where wildlife is habituated to sound and lights, and on roads where there is large volume of fast-moving traffic,’ Cr Dicker said.

‘Being solar powered, virtual fences can also be ineffective along road corridors that are heavily shaded by vegetation,’ she said.

The councillor said uncertainty was an inherent aspect of innovation, and there were few alternative solutions available.

Responding to questions on the matter at the meeting, Cr Dicker said staff would be best placed to recommend a suitable site.

Call for more wildlife tunnels and bridges across region

A squirrel glider crosses a rope bridge (Credit: B Taylor and R Goldingay).

Shaunti Sunshine Kiehl spoke on the matter during public access, saying she supported the idea but it didn’t go far enough.

‘It seems to be plainly accepted that wildlife tunnels and bridges are too expensive, yet are being done successfully all over the world, and shown they get huge reductions in collisions, in some cases, 85 to 99% reductions,’ Ms Kiehl said .

‘You can’t say the same for virtual fencing, which only halves the kills and only works at night,’ she said.

Ms Kiehl said a ‘camera trapping exercise’ overseas had found panthers, black bears, skunk, steer, bats, birds, and even fish used introduced crossings and hope was growing. 

‘I’m here to ask what you’re spending your money on,’ Ms Kiehl said,  ‘bedazzling tourists with shiny foot paths and splendid landscaping in Lennox? Creating new roundabouts with fancy sculptures and crossings? Extensive aesthetic and recreational landscapes? renovations and earthworks for people? Big, huge new buildings for arts and sports?’

Later in the meeting Cr Dicker said she didn’t ‘go quite as far as to suggest’ underpasses and overpasses were too expensive, but thought they were something the council needed to think about, particularly when building North Creek Road.

‘I’ve been really open, you know, in the notes about the effectiveness of this solution,’ Cr Dicker said.

54 koalas killed on local roads in less than two months, says Cr Bruem

This koala and her joey are very vulnerable to being hit by cars crossing roads. Photo supplied.

Her motion sought ‘to direct Council to establish and fund a trial site for virtual fencing to minimise wildlife death from vehicle strike in the Ballina Shire’.

The motion also included having staff provide a report on the preferred method of funding for the trial, including from the council’s existing roads and maintenance budget and/or grant funding opportunities.

The council would continue to work with wildlife rescue organisations, hospitals, universities, and other partners to implement solutions to reducing wildlife deaths by vehicle strike, the motion read.

Council staff comments on the agenda were limited to one, being that the requested audit and report could be done based on the council’s current resources.

Independent Cr Rodney Bruem spoke in favour of the motion, saying he’d spoken to Friends of the Koala and learned 28 koalas were killed on roads across the Northern Rivers in August, and 26 so far that month.

All councillors voted unanimously in favour.


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1 COMMENT

  1. For any evolved animal, such as mammals, the car its self is the warning. The real threat to worthwhile wild life, are EVs, as they don’t provide enough sound to be heard in time to react, as pedestrians in car parks have discovered worldwide.

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