Opposition calls on NSW Government to resolve Pacific Highway koala dispute


The NSW Labor Opposition has called on the O’Farrell Liberal Government to find a solution that ensures the Pacific Highway upgrade goes ahead, but also ensures that rare colonies of koalas on the North Coast are protected.

NSW Shadow Minister for the Environment Luke Foley and NSW Shadow Minister for Roads and Shadow Minister for the North Coast Walt Secord issued the plea after a key scientific advisor to the O’Farrell Government resigned in protest over the Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade.

Last November, the O’Farrell Government released its plan for the proposed route, however, the community has expressed concerns that it would go straight through koala colonies. The upgrade is planned for Section 10 of the Woolgoolga to Ballina stretch known as the Wardell bypass.

Ballina Shire Council identified the Meerschaum Vale Blackwall Range area as being "nationally significant" and a "key local source population" for the Northern Rivers. The study found 70 per cent, or 13 of 18 localised koala colonies in the local government area would be significantly impacted by construction of the route.

Mr Foley said: “Barry O’Farrell allows reckless logging to occur in magnificent North Coast koala habitats and now he is allowing his Roads Minister Duncan Gay to put a 12 kilometre stretch of the Pacific Highway straight through rare koala colonies.”

“It is no wonder the scientific community is questioning Barry O’Farrell’s promises on the environment.
“Barry O’Farrell is hiding behind the fig leaf of so-called green tape. He is using it as an exercise to wind back Labor’s environmental protection achievements. In Opposition, Barry O’Farrell promised that he would protect the environment, but in Government, he does otherwise.”

Mr Secord said: “Gone are the days when a Roads Minister would call in the bulldozers and take out a rare koala colony. We must work together to provide much needed infrastructure and still protect the environment.

“Previous State Governments have been able to balance the protection of threatened species with major construction projects like the Olympic site. The O’Farrell Government is simply not up to the job of managing the complexities that come with a major project like the Pacific Highway.”

“It is time that the Minister put aside his hostility to the environmental movement and found a solution which allows the upgrade to go ahead, but also protects the koala.”

Mr Foley and Mr Secord today called on Mr Gay to work with the local Northern Rivers community to find a solution.

At the start of European settlement there were an estimated 10 million koalas in Australia. Today, there have been a mere 11,000 reported sightings on the North Coast bioregion. Koalas have suffered due to encroaching development, logging, attacks by pets, imported disease and road accidents.