March 8 - 14, 2015: Issue 205
Saving Ballina’s Koalas – Will Pittwater’s Mistakes be Repeated?
Koala Eating - photo courtesy Dieser Benutzer
Saving Ballina’s Koalas – Will Pittwater’s Mistakes be Repeated?
March 6, 2015
For the past few months, in view of Pittwater no longer having any of her former thriving Koala communities, we have followed with interest attempts by Ballina residents to save one of their own Koala communities from a proposed ‘Section 10’ 13 kilometre stretch of road portion of upgrades to the Pacific Highway that is slated to go through their habitat, a habitat they have been accustomed to and familiar with for several generations according to some reports and one study.
Prior to the Federal Government’s Environment Minister, Hon. Hunt’s call for further planning…. (‘Ballina Koalas protected in Pacific Highway upgrade’ - Media release - 15 August 2014: The Hon. Greg Hunt MP): “The conditions that I have applied require the NSW Roads and Maritime Services to demonstrate that impacts to the Ballina Koala population will be acceptable, before section 10 of the highway can be undertaken. The NSW Roads and Maritime Services must prepare a Ballina Koala Plan that includes peer reviewed population modelling for the Ballina koalas. Prior to proceeding with the construction of the 13km, section 10 of the highway upgrade, concerns around the impact of the Ballina koala population need to be addressed.”
…mitigation measures were stated as ‘revegetation’, which at surface, and researching the trees proposed for revegetation growth to maturity, looks like a seven year fast for any koalas in the specified area. A further mitigation measure proposes barriers along said road to stop the furry doe-eyed icons of our bush from wandering onto said death trap – a measure that worked well in Pittwater, where unscaleable fences, the cutting down of food trees that needed to be travelled to seasonally, and not replacing them, coupled with domestic pet attacks, worked so well that the most recent Koala Count yielded a figure of ‘0’ for Pittwater.
Our Correspondent from this area states residents, as a community, are becoming divided by this matter and calm discussion has at times devolved into slanging matches. In June 2014 Ballina Shire Council backed up a residents meeting voting for the already RMS published preferred route as a proposed alternate route would change the character of the town of Wardell and cause safety concerns. (ABC - June 26, 2014 report: Ballina council votes on koala highway)
In February 2015 Councillors at Lismore’s Council voted not to oppose the route in a 6 to 5 vote. (Northern Star February 1, 2015: Lismore councillors vote not to oppose Pacific Hwy route)
On February 16th, 2015 the Minister for Page, Kevin Hogan MP, stated: “It was great to visit Bagotville Quarry at Wardell today with Ballina mayor David Wright to inspect plans to plant 8000 native trees as part of the Federal Governments 20 Million Trees Programme.
We secured $80,000 for the Ballina project that will increase the habitat of our local Koala population.”
Cynics would mutter about figurative ‘writing on a wall’ and ‘read between the lines’ or ‘check your maps’ in response to this announcement. As we head into a State Election you can guarantee the promises will flow thick and fast and positives may outweigh negatives until realisation, and physical manifestation, will prove who scoffed idly and who did not.
Koala and joey - photo courtesy Benjamint444
On February 10th the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS – NSW Government) updated their page in response to our Federal Environment Minister's requirements:
Roads and Maritime – NSW Government – page update February 10th, 2015
‘Ballina Koala Plan
Roads and Maritime, in line with expert advice is developing a strategy to address conditions of approval relating to management of the koala between Wardell and Coolgardie, near Ballina.
Key features of the strategy include:
• Establishing an expert panel to provide advice to Roads and Maritime on the modelling work and mitigation measures for the Ballina koala population
• Engaging experts to collect more data on the Ballina koala population, carry out the population viability analysis and peer review the analysis
• Share information with key stakeholders including Ballina Shire Council and its reference group as well as the broader community.
The data collected and subsequent modelling carried out will inform development of the Ballina Koala Plan and will be subject to external expert peer review.
The Federal Environment Minister will only approve the start of section 10 “if the impacts to the Ballina koala population are demonstrated to be acceptable”.
Independent expert panel
Professor Mary O’Kane will lead a panel of experts, independent to the project team, which will review all ecological information on the Ballina koala population and make recommendations on the suitability of mitigation measures to protect the koala.
Along with Professor O’Kane, the panel will comprise two independent experts recognised for their knowledge of koala populations and a Roads and Maritime environmental manager independent to the Woolgoolga to Ballina project team.
The panel has been established to guide Roads and Maritime on matters relating to the environmental conditions set by Federal Minister for the Environment Greg Hunt, including a Population Viability Analysis (PVA).
The expert panel will meet at regular intervals with the first session scheduled for February 2015. One of the panel’s tasks will be to review the Population Viability Analysis (PVA) being carried out to establish the long term viability of the Ballina koala population.
Population Viability Analysis (PVA) process
Roads and Maritime has engaged scientific consultants EcoSure and BioLink, including Dr Steve Phillips, to collect data on the local koala population for the PVA.
Once the data is collected, experienced ecologist Dr Rod Kavanagh of Niche Environment and Heritage will analyse and complete the PVA.
Dr Kavanagh will report the findings to the expert panel with the outcomes expected to be announced later this year.
For more information view the Ballina Koala Plan update (PDF,78Kb) and the frequently asked questions on the PVA process (PDF,51Kb). All documents at: www.rms.nsw.gov.au/projects/northern-nsw/woolgoolga-to-ballina/threatened-species.html
From the ‘Ballina Koala Plan update’: January 2015
‘Niche Environment and Heritage contractors have been engaged to update the overall koala management plan , carry out population viability analysis, and prepare the Ballina Koala Plan for section 10 – from the Richmond River at Broadwater, deviating west of Wardell, to Coolgardie.
The overarching Koala Management Plan details how impacts will be minimised and managed for koala populations and areas of potential koala habitat.
It also identifies a number of management actions to be carried out to ensure the long-term survival of this species in the area of the project.
…The Ballina Koala Plan will be submitted to the Federal Environment Minister to determine if the impacts to the Ballina koala population are demonstrated to be acceptable.’
‘In addition, a revegetation strategy will be developed to determine areas for replanting before building starts, as well as provide details of the revegetation required for each area to connect habitat.
We will plant 130 hectares of koala food trees on Roads and Maritime owned land near the new highway corridor, with at least 50 per cent to be planted before major work starts and the remainder after building work finishes.’
‘It is expected the panel will meet at regular intervals and continue until the koala management plans for the project have been approved by NSW Department of Planning and Environment and Federal Department of Environment.
Roads and Maritime expects to have the updated Ballina Koala Plan and modelling outcomes of the PVA by mid 2015 with a decision from the Federal Environment Minister on the acceptability of impacts expected by October 2015.
We will keep you regularly informed of project progress through letters, community updates, and our website.
For more information about the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade contact the project team by email W2B@rms.nsw.gov.au or by phoning 1800 778 900.’
Also on this RMS page regarding this area is a list of Threatened Species which include the Long-nosed potoroo, coastal emu, Oxleyan pygmy perch, Giant barred frog and Pink underwing moth. Measures to manage and mitigate for these include fencing and connectivity structures for the Potoroo, fencing and connectivity structures for the emu, fencing for the Giant Barred Frog and relocating it and a catch-net system for the perch from run-off associated with concreting ‘so as not to harm its habitat’. No plans for the Pink underwing moth apart from an acknowledgement that: ‘The pink underwing moth lives in Lowland Subtropical Rainforest. The moth is found in small populations in five locations across NSW. One of these populations is north of Wardell.’
Please pause from envisioning burly roadworkers in too big gumboots gambolling through marshy fields with oversized butterfly nets stalking small pink flutterings until what will be done for the pink underwing moth is officially announced.
Figures for fatalities on the Pacific Highway underline that an upgrade to reduce these is more than warranted, and even if you don’t accede to the present social condition of wanting to ‘be there yesterday’ as being justified in the human species pursuit of more, more, more or disregard how many of these fatalities are due to driver error rather than road condition, anyone who has travelled this route knows the decade long debate has to end and change begin.
If you ask yourself, at the same time; does this preclude other species right to live too?, the logical head and true heart answer would inevitably be ‘Probably not’ – on the obverse; how many will we see prior to October 2015, with their hands on their hearts, attesting that ‘this will work’ and even go a bit Biblical with a ‘ordained species’ unspoken cant?
Now stroll outside, gaze upwards at Pittwater’s vastly diminished tree canopy under the 10/50 fiasco, and point out to your little darlings all the wonderful koala population they have inherited as Keepers.
Can’t see them? Hmm, that’s because they’re no longer there. Extinct.
It’s going to be a ‘hard road’ either way for a solution that, for once, doesn’t spend lots of dollars on an evaluation and report and for that to be interpreted as validation for a full steam ahead approach for something that was always going to go ahead anyway, as is, lip service served, on with the desecration.
This will be a difficult job, is already an uneasy place, and an uneasy feeling permeating all communities as we struggle to meet the aspirations of retaining pristine communities and the familiar home grounds of multi-generational beings that are not human while meeting the aspirations of those that are, who clearly want ‘both’. Weighing up what we give value to, an examination of worths, and not ascribing ‘worth’ to a strictly dollar definition, may guide us to where we all want to go – forward, but without carnage in our wake.
Can Ballina, and our State and Federal governing bodies learn from Pittwater’s mistakes?
We certainly hope so.
A J Guesdon.
Koala climbing tree - photo courtesy Diliff
References and Notes:
ABC - June 26, 2014 report: Ballina council votes on koala highway
Northern Star February 1, 2015: Lismore councillors vote not to oppose Pacific Hwy route
Ballina Shire Council – Ordinary Meeting – 22 January, 2015
Item 9.3 - Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management – PDF – 16.5 MB
Item 9.3 - Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management
International Fund for Animal Welfare - IFAW
February 24th, 2015
Please help us save the Ballina 200. The Ballina 200 is a critical source population of 200 koalas at Ballina, NSW. It just happens to be right where the State government wants to re-route the Pacific Highway. This route would make this population extinct by 2030. Please download our petition, print it, have as many people sign it as possible and send it back to us here at IFAW at the address on the petition. We need your petitions back by 31 March.
Image: T.L. Busby. Koalo. Plate from Perry, George, fl. 1810-1811. Arcana, or, The Museum of natural history : containing the most recent discovered objects embellished with coloured plates ... combining a general survey of nature. This 1810s engraving was the first or one of the first illustrations of Koalas published in Europe. NLA Picture: Pub;lished May 1810: http://nla.gov.au/nla.aus-vn1545543-1x
Save Ballina's Koalas - www.facebook.com/saveballinaskoalas
Friday March 6, 2015
The Great Koala Park is all well and good but don't let Luke off the hook about the Pacific Highway. In November Former leader, John Robertson said on the steps of Parliament House:
“The NSW Labor position is that we want to see this road re- routed. At the very least the minister has got to go out and do a costing of using the existing corridor. We are watching koala populations across the nation ever decline and to allow this road to take this route would be irresponsible.
This is a matter that the Shadow Minister of Environment has raised a number of occasions in Question Time and Duncan Gay continues to say he has no intentions whatsoever of even contemplating an alternative route, which means that if this road takes the path that is laid before us we are going to see, eventually, a complete destruction of the koala population in this region.
There is nothing stopping the Minister now going back to RMS and have costed using the existing corridor to bring that section of road up to the standard of other parts of Pacific Highway. It is just absolute stubbornness and ignorance on part of minister and his arrogance in refusing to listen to the concerns of the community.”
‘Ballina Koalas protected in Pacific Highway upgrade’
Media release - 15 August 2014: The Hon. Greg Hunt MP, Minister for the Environment
“There has been a high level of public interest in the project, particularly in relation to impacts on the important koala population near Ballina.
I have considered the assessment report from the New South Wales Government, public submissions, the findings of the Ballina Shire koala study, and further koala population modelling that was submitted to me late in the process.
The conditions that I have applied require the NSW Roads and Maritime Services to demonstrate that impacts to the Ballina Koala population will be acceptable, before section 10 of the highway can be undertaken.
The NSW Roads and Maritime Services must prepare a Ballina Koala Plan that includes peer reviewed population modelling for the Ballina koalas.
Prior to proceeding with the construction of the 13km, section 10 of the highway upgrade, concerns around the impact of the Ballina koala population need to be addressed.”
Also see: New South Wales Government - NSW legislation
NSW State Environmental Planning Policy No 44—Koala Habitat Protection: Current version for 20 April 2000 to date
Aims, objectives etc
This Policy aims to encourage the proper conservation and management of areas of natural vegetation that provide habitat for koalas to ensure a permanent free-living population over their present range and reverse the current trend of koala population decline:
(a) by requiring the preparation of plans of management before development consent can be granted in relation to areas of core koala habitat, and
(b) by encouraging the identification of areas of core koala habitat, and
(c) by encouraging the inclusion of areas of core koala habitat in environment protection zones.
In this Policy:
core koala habitat means an area of land with a resident population of koalas, evidenced by attributes such as breeding females (that is, females with young) and recent sightings of and historical records of a population.
guidelines means the guidelines, as in force from time to time, made for the purposes of this Policy by the Director.
potential koala habitat means areas of native vegetation where the trees of the types listed in Schedule 2 constitute at least 15% of the total number of trees in the upper or lower strata of the tree component.
Main koala food tees from: http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/animals/koalahabitat.htm