Campaign to save Ballina’s koalas hits the right note
JEFF Johnson says he wants to see the Pacific Highway uprgraded, but not at the expense of irreplaceable Aboriginal sites and the koalas in the area to the west of Wardell.
Mr Johnson is the co-ordinator of the Save Ballina's Koalas campaign which is pushing for the Section 10 upgrade of the highway to be built east of the Richmond River and away from a known koala population to the west.
The campaign's latest effort was a musical one, with a concert held in Ballina on Saturday.
About 70 people attended the event.
President of the Friends of the Koala, Lorraine Vass, put down the "underwhelming" turnout to the wintery weather conditions.
But the music still played.
Scientific studies are currently being undertaken on the Wardell koala population identified two years ago by ecologist Dr Steve Phillips as "nationally significant".
But Ms Vass said "precautionary principles" should apply and the Roads and Maritime Services should consider two alternatives - one on the existing highway route, with an eastern deviation around Wardell, and the other further to the east.
Traditional land owner, Susan Anderson from Wardell, was at the concert and said she wanted Aboriginal heritage in the area saved.
There are scar trees where canoes and shields were made, bora rings, middens and other heritage sites along the western route.
But not everyone agrees that the highway route should be changed.
Paola Rickard, the vice president of the Wardell and District Progress Association, said the Roads and Maritime route for the Section 10 Pacific Highway upgrade was the "best compromise".
"We love the koalas just like everyone," she said.
"We believe the measures put in place (by the RMS) will protect the koala."
The RMS has planned 25 structures for koalas in the Section 10 highway upgrade, along with a land bridge, and also set aside 130ha of land for the planting of koala trees.
She said the scientific investigation of the koala population should be allowed to run its course before any alternates for the highway route were suggested.
She argued there were other environmental factors for the proposed alternate eastern routes, like soft soils and flooding, as well as social issues like loss of farmland and housing that made it untenable.
Meanwhile, she said human fatalities were still occurring on the current highway route.