State Government must protect Ballina koalas

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NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay must resolve a growing dispute over a 12-kilometre bypass for the Pacific Highway which threatens a rare North Coast koala colony, the NSW Labor Opposition said today.

“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,” NSW Shadow Minister for Roads and Shadow Minister for the North Coast Walt Secord said.

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

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.

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.

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.”

Mr Foley said: “Other 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.”