UNDER THREAT: Local koala colonies are under pressure.
UNDER THREAT: Local koala colonies are under pressure. Cathy Adams

Road could ruin koala habitat

CALLS have come to alter a section of the Pacific Highway upgrade near Ballina to save threatened koala habitats rather than pursue the financial rewards of mining shale on the proposed route.

Ballina Shire Council recently commissioned a study into section 10 of the Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade stretch known as the Wardell bypass.

The study by Biolink Pty Ltd identified koalas in the Meerschaum Vale Blackwall Range area as being "nationally significant" and a "key local source population" for the Northern Rivers.

The study found 70%, or 13 of 18 localised koala colonies in the Ballina local government area would be significantly impacted by construction of the proposed 12km route.

"Koalas take several generations to disperse into new areas, so loss of habitat usually has a major impact on what are essentially localised populations," the study found.

The Ballina Environment Society has lodged a submission with the NSW Government detailing koala population impact, environmental and ecological impacts.

The submission also included the impact on the last viable population of the long-nosed potoroo on the Far North Coast and suggestions the route was chosen so shale could be mined during construction.

NSW Greens Roads and Environment spokeswoman Dr Mehreen Faruqi called on the O'Farrell government to alter the proposed route.

"It is time this government started realising that our native animals are too precious to lose and that when done within the framework of ecologically sustainable development, we can upgrade transport infrastructure and maintain our environment," she said.

Ballina Greens councillor Jeff Johnson echoed Dr Faruqi's plea.

"The North Coast is one of the last refuges of our vulnerable koala populations. This road has the real potential to irreversibly impact their habitat," he said.

Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass said the highway upgrade should follow the existing route to minimise the environmental impact.

"The whole motivation for this section of the upgrade is the economic benefit that can be gained by mining the shale on the proposed route," she said.



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