August 25, 2016

Ballina's Koalas between a rock and hard place

Greens Member for Ballina Tamara Smith today condemned the decision by the new Federal Government’s Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg to approve the Pacific Highway route through the habitat of Ballina’s koala colony.

“I join the many thousands of koala activists and koala lovers across our region, Australia, and internationally in condemning this decision.  It is very disappointing that alternative routes do not seem to have been seriously considered,” said Ms Smith.

“Mr Frydenberg could have insisted the Baird government examine other options for the highway. It seems he approved the four-lane expressway's new route near Ballina on the NSW North Coast on July 19, the day he was sworn in, according to koala groups such as Friends of the koala. The NSW Roads and Maritime Services made the approval public only on Monday – a month later.”

The fact that the Pacific Highway is now due to go through the Ballina koala colony means that these koalas are now threatened with extinction.

Leading koala ecologist Dr Stephen Phillips has said publicly that the current location for the Section 10 highway route from Wardell to Ballina will irrevocably damage Ballina’s nationally significant koala population, which is already at or below 200 in number. This is despite the mitigation processes that the RMS is in putting in place.

“Even with the proposed wildlife crossings and planting of food trees provided for under the RMS plan these are likely to come too late to save the koala population once damage from the highway construction begins. Ballina’s koalas are simply caught between a rock and a hard place and it is an unbelievably shocking dilemma for our precious koalas ” said Ms Smith.

“It is incredibly disappointing that the NSW and Federal Governments are prepared to let a population of wild koalas be destroyed when we should be preserving and protecting this iconic species.”

“I once again call on the NSW and Federal Governments to change their mind on this issue and save our koalas.”

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