Ros Irwin (centre) protesting against rezoning key koala habitat at Monaltrie.
Ros Irwin (centre) protesting against rezoning key koala habitat at Monaltrie. Claudia Jambor

Koala concerns leaves proposal in limbo

A PROPOSAL to rezone what has been described as a key koala breeding ground into rural residential lots has been left in limbo by Lismore City Council.

Koala expert Dr Steve Phillips and Friends of the Koala were strong voices against the proposal at Monaltrie to rezone 161 hectares of land heavily inhabited by the animals for rural residential development.

The proposal, lodged by Newton Denny Chapelle Planners, sought to rezone three lots of land on Durheim Rd, Monaltrie Ln and Whyrallah Rd with the potential to house 150 lots.

Town planner, Damian Chapelle said the outcomes of Tuesday night's council meeting left them with no approval or rejection of the proposal, triggering the need for further discussions with Lismore City Council.

Mr Chapelle said priority now is to foster talks with the council, especially around investigations of koala movements at the site.

He pointed to drafting structural plans for council to determine the primary koala corridor in the area and assess road placement to minimise negative impact.

Friends of the Koala volunteers and expert, Dr Steve Phillips spoke against approval to rezone the area and cited their grave concerns future development would have on koala vegetation and populations.

Lismore City Council

Dr Phillips, who has worked extensively on koala management, said the proposal "couldn't be happening in a worse place" which he referred to as "the engine room of Lismore's koala population".

He said the only way the development could be realised is through very strict controls on subdivision including: the retention of every koala food tree and integrated into the development as well as the prohibition of domestic dogs.

Handing the movement of koalas out of the area and allocating compensatory habitat were key considerations Dr Phillips said planners must assess well in advance of any development in the area.

In its rezoning proposal to council, Mr Chapelle said the company has put structures in place "to retain primary and secondary koala habitat" and other protection measures.

In Tuesday's business paper, Lismore City Council's consultant planner Mike Svikis recommended the council to support the proposal to move forward for further assessment by the Department of Environment and Planning.

But the councillors didn't feel the same way as hot debate broke out among councillors.

Cr Eddie Lloyd led the charge against the proposed re-zoning and highlighted her "zero tolerance approach when it comes to our koalas".

Flossie the koala happy to be released at her new home in Rous Mill.
Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star
Flossie the koala happy to be released at her new home in Rous Mill. Photo Cathy Adams / The Northern Star Cathy Adams

"This is critical koala habitat this is the main source of our koalas there are other areas that can be developed around Lismore besides this area

"We shouldn't be touching critical koala habitat at all."

Cr Neil Marks created an alternative motion to defer consideration of the proposal until the applicant provides further ecological assessment and a structure plan outlining proposed transport and environmental protection areas.

Cr Bennett spoke in favour of the initial motion and said the deferral would be "a really bad way for this council to operate" because it could risk the developer investing more money into a project that could be rejected.

"I think we need to give them a clear decision; yes we are happy with this development but we do want those protections in there for koalas," Cr Marks said.

"Lets not give them a slow no lets give them the okay but they know what they need to do."

Councillors voted against the initial motion, 8-3.

But the alternative motion put forward by Cr Marks was turned down in a tight 6-5 vote.

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