December 12 , 2021 - January 22, 2022: Issue 522


Sydney's Last Koala Population Being Killed As Mount Gilead Development Cuts Down Trees With No Fauna Passes or protections in place: Pittwater Demonstration Falls On Deaf Ears

On Monday December 6th 2021 those trying to save the last of Sydney's koalas gathered outside the Mona Vale office of Pittwater MP and NSW Minister for Planning and Minister for Transport Rob Stokes.

They were seeking to bring attention to the fact that Lendlease is already cutting down the homes of those resident koalas with no measures in place, despite years of assurances they would be. Already koalas deaths are occurring or koalas are being found in adjacent areas, confused and stressed, after their passageways have been destroyed.

This follows on from not publicised changes made in 2019 to facilitate this development whereby koalas could be 'translocated'. Pittwater Online News reported then:

Mount Gilead Development Bulldozing Koala Habitat Approved: Resident Turtles To Go Too - The Beginning Of The End Of Campbelltown's Koalas

The Developer who was booted out of the Sydney Stadium rebuild one day was welcomed elsewhere with open arms the next. Lendlease, has received permission to remove trees and de-water dams at the historic Mount Gilead farming property south of Rosemeadow late this week.

In the document made public on Friday (July 26, 20219) a four-member Campbelltown Local Planning Panel effectively authorised bulldozers and work crews to enter the site, dismissing the concerns of locals who argued that approval was premature because a development application for the proposed estate has yet to be assessed, let alone approved.

"In the Panel's opinion there are no grounds to justify refusal of the application," the document stated.

Although protesters gathered outside the Campbelltown Council's offices, and tens of thousands from the area and surrounds had sent in submissions as well as a long run campaign to save the local fauna on the property, their responses didn't mean much with either the council representing them or the panels that have been put in place for developers so that government at local, state and federal level can say 'it wasn't us' - and 'bulldoze' ahead.

Although the document wasn't released to the general public residents until Friday, vigilant locals spotted a tree service business on the land hours after the panel meeting.

In response to the the fact that koalas will soon have their homes bulldozed the Planning Panel's report states (that they) also:

stipulated that Lendlease take measures to ensure that any wildlife inhabiting the dams or neighbouring surrounds be "treated humanely and relocatedbefore development activities start.

"A qualified ecologist or wildlife carer is required to be present throughout the de-watering activities to relocate fauna or take fauna into care where appropriate" the approval document stated.

Recent studies and reports show that the success rate for translocated koalas is very low - they don't survive. Coomera, once the heartland of Southeast Queensland koalas is probably a worst case example of translocation outcomes; some 180 koalas (the numbers keep varying) were translocated to facilitate 30 developments – all approved by the Gold Coast City Council. The wildlife returns obtained by Australians for Animals Inc. on the translocated koalas demonstrated that 2 survived - that's not even 1%. Their count found that at least 23 'were ripped to pieces by dogs'.

The NSW government adopted a translocation policy in May 2019 which states its key objective  [is to] increase good practice in translocation initiatives by ensuring they:
are only undertaken where necessary or beneficial for conservation of the species or as part of an approved offset arrangement [for a state significant development]

The NSW Government's Translocations for offsets is moving koalas in the way of development. Unfortunately, the approval of mass felling of trees, and plans to raze 100% more of some kola habitats, means translocation, even if it did work, cannot occur as there is nowhere to move them to.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has guidelines for translocations. Two are listed:
1. Conservation Translocation - To improve the status of the species or
2. Conservation Introduction - To avoid population extinction at any scale.

There are also a number of turtles in the dams on the acreage and soon nowhere for them to be translocated to. Their habitat is being destroyed as well.

The panels report's use of the phrase 'before development activities start' would also indicate Lendlease don't need to lodge a DA for the proposed estate - that's already approved too.

The leaders of local environment group Save Mount Gilead are now urging people to keep emailing the council and the premier, as well as looking into an injunction.

It's a bad news to be made aware of on the day that was National Tree Day for Schools this week - not a good message for all those little hands that were out planting green fronds a few inches tall on the same day their parents were finally able to access the panel's decision.
It's a slap to their faces - on National Tree Day too. 
It's a disaster for our ever diminishing tree count.
A disaster for our ever diminishing water supply. 

It's a death sentence for the koalas of Campbelltown, just as dogs, dogs in reserves, mass quick development and the cutting down of trees were the death sentence for Pittwater's now extinct koalas.

As one resident said;
If this wasn’t such a serious issue it would be laughable how dodgy this whole process has been of acquiring historically significant land that is home to abundant wildlife, no less an endangered [and] disease free koala colony... we need open spaces, our children and grandchildren need to see our native animals, we need to preserve history.

While another stated:
This morning I met with some very knowledgeable people about koalas and when I got home this little guy was nestled in a tree in my backyard, there was a swamp wallaby as well. All I could think was you poor little devils Gladys Berejiklian and some local government people intend destroying you and your habitat. 

On Tuesday December 7, 2021: Save Sydney’s Koalas responded to Lendleases Tree removal on Figtree Hill without Koala underpasses on Appin Road 

''Yesterday more tree removal work started on Stage 1 of Lendlease’s Figtree Hill (Mount Gilead) development at Campbelltown. At the same time two healthy koalas were hit on Appin Road not far from where tree felling was taking place on the property. One died instantly and the other is critically injured.'' the group said in a statement

''If the government is serious about protecting this expanding and chlamydia free koala population, we call on them to deliver the following measures immediately: 

1.  Two koala/wildlife underpasses promised by Lendlease at Noorumba and Beulah Reserves and 

2.  All koala/wildlife corridors identified by the Chief Scientist must be secured and viable before construction. 

These corridors need to be continuous and connected and follow the Chief Scientist’s advice.  

We call on the NSW Government to end its obfuscation and act in the best interest of the koalas to ensure their survival in the wild. 

Save Sydney Koalas and their supporters will continue to protest until we are satisfied that the Campbelltown Koalas are safe.

Trees Being Cut Down - December 6 2021

Save Mount Gilead Inc. has stated ''Where are the wildlife corridors and underpasses promised by Campbelltown Council, Matt Kean, and the Liberal State Government?

This within days of one koala being killed just down the road from the property another being rescued with very bad injuries, and three koalas found trying to find a way through a wildlife corridor to Airds which has been destroyed by Landcom. 

Landcom, Lendlease, Walker's shame on you, shame on the Liberal Government, and shame on Campbelltown City Council

Is this how the last large, expanding, and Chlamydia free koala population is expected to survive?''

Save Mount Gilead Inc. photos - December 6, 2021: ''Just some of the over 50 trees Campbelltown Council gave permission for Lend lease to cut down at Mt.Gilead today. Wonder if they were checked for wildlife?''

Days prior to this commencement of the destruction of their home trees, some reputed to be 200 years old, another 400 years old, the state government Issue the following media release:

New Plans To Protect Sydney's Koalas

December 2, 2021

Sydney's largest, and one of the state’s healthiest, koala populations will be further protected under new measures being implemented as part of the Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan (CPCP).

Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes said the changes put the protection of one of Australia’s most iconic threatened species at the heart of planning in south-west Sydney.

“After seeking advice from the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer on the draft Plan, I’m pleased to confirm we are adopting all 31 recommendations to protect our critical koala population,” Mr Stokes said.

“We have updated the Plan to protect additional areas of habitat and ensure that wildlife corridors are suitable for koala movement.

Member for Penrith and Minister for Western Sydney Stuart Ayres said the koala population of the Greater Macarthur region is one of healthiest colonies in the state and one which continues to grow.

“It’s important that we support the region’s koala population, while also managing a growing community in Sydney’s south-west,” Mr Ayres said.

“This area is also rich in significant Aboriginal culture and history, and we’re committed to working more closely with Local Aboriginal Land Councils and Traditional Custodians to preserve this in our planning for the community.”

Environment Minister Matt Kean said one of the leading threats to koala populations in the wild, is the loss and fragmentation of their habitat.

“South West Sydney is home to the only disease-free koala populations in the Sydney basin and it is one of the most important koala populations anywhere in the state,” Mr Kean said.

“This advice from the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer is crucial in protecting koala habitat in the Campbelltown and Macarthur regions as we finalise the implementation of the CPCP.

“As this part of Sydney continues to grow these recommendations will guide future development in the area and ensure koala habitat and wildlife corridors are protected in perpetuity.”

The Greater Macarthur 2040 Plan is also being finalised which will work alongside the CPCP to create koala movement corridors, improve connections and allow koalas to travel more safely throughout the region.

The CPCP and Greater Macarthur 2040 Plan are expected to be finalised and released in 2022.

For more information on the CPCP visit the CPCP web page.

However, the destruction and koala deaths are occurring now and no measures are in place to protect them.

Cate Faehrmann Greens MP and spokesperson for Environment and Wildlife issued the following statement in response to the government's media release:

Koala Underpasses Must Be Built Before Development: Greens

December 2, 2021

Today’s commitment by the NSW Government to enact all 31 of the Chief Scientist & Engineer’s recommendations to protect Campbelltown’s Koalas is welcome news for the community and koalas, however underpasses must be built and koala corridors protected before Lendlease starts any development, says Cate Faehrmann Greens MP and spokesperson for Environment and Wildlife. 

The new measures will form part of the Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan and include commitments to build koala underpasses on Appin road and protect the east-west koala corridors.  The commitment comes after the NSW Legislative Council passed a Greens motion calling on the Government to ensure the underpasses are built and corridors protected prior to the development. 

“This is a welcome news for local residents who have been working tirelessly to see Campbelltown’s koalas protected for years now. They’ve been demanding more be done to protect this vital koala population from development and they’re being heard,” said Ms Faehrmann. 

“There is a serious desire to see Campbelltown’s koalas protected from the threats posed by development in the south west Sydney Growth centre. 

“Just a few weeks ago, the NSW Upper House overwhelmingly supported my motion calling for Appin Rd koala underpasses and corridors to be in place before construction begins. 

“This latest commitment by the government is welcome but there are still questions over when the corridors and crossings will be completed. The government has known about how deadly Appin Rd has been for koalas for years and have sat on their hands while koalas continue to be killed. 

“If the necessary protections aren’t in place before development begins the koala population will be hugely impacted by construction activities. 

“Lendlease should not be allowed to put a shovel in the ground until these underpasses are in place,” said Ms Faehrmann. '

Those who gathered outside Pittwater MP Rob Stokes office on Monday, along with all in Pittwater who remember that we once had koalas too, are asking: 

'Where are the koala underpasses and corridors? 

Who is checking these areas as they destroy their homes to ensure they are protected?

But mostly;

Why aren''t these protections in place prior to this destruction?

They certainly aren't at present - and the loss of so many in the first day underlines the support of the developer at the cost of the lives of these protected Australian species.

Pittwater Pathways John Illingsworths' coverage of the Pittwater demonstration runs below.


Published December 11, 2021 by Pittwater Pathways, John Illingsworth