Koala plans receive Federal Government approval

22 August 2016

Roads and Maritime Services today welcomed the news the Ballina Koala Plan and Koala Management Plan have been approved.

A Roads and Maritime spokesperson said this was a critical step in enabling the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade between Broadwater and Coolgardie to proceed.

“As part of the project’s Conditions of Approval, no major work could start in this section until the plans were approved,” the spokesperson said.

The plans were carefully examined by the Federal Department of the Environment, including a Population Viability Analysis (PVA) for a 50 year timeframe examining the viability of the koala population in this area.

The PVA was the most extensive study ever carried out on koala populations along the highway and has added to the general body of knowledge about the koala.

“Roads and Maritime takes the project’s Conditions of Approval seriously and works to minimise impact on all sensitive environmental communities while building a safer Pacific Highway,” the spokesperson said.

The NSW Government has used an open and transparent process throughout the development of the Ballina Koala Plan, which was submitted for consideration in February this year.

The decision is important as it will allow the upgrade of the Pacific Highway to be completed to four lanes of divided road between Hexham and the Queensland border, providing a safer journey for thousands of motorists each day.

Roads and Maritime has committed to a range of important measures as part of the plans including completely closed fencing of the new highway between Richmond River and Coolgardie Road with improved fauna connectivity structures, additional fencing on the existing Pacific Highway and nearby local roads to further reduce koala deaths from road strikes.

Key measures include about 26 wildlife crossings to be installed, substantially increasing safe crossing points compared to the current highway.

About 130 hectares of koala food habitat will be planted to provide additional habitat and to guide koalas to safer crossing points across the highway.

The koala food habitat will start to be planted early to ensure it is well developed in time for the highway’s planned completion by 2020 and would provide resources not currently available to the koala.

Studies have shown this would not only offset a decline in the koala population, but even improve its future outlook when combined with the other measures.

The plans took more than 15 months to prepare and involved more than 13 scientific, environmental and research organisations and academics, including the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Professor Mary O’Kane AC and leading koala experts.

The principal task of the committee was to provide independent expert advice on the koala management on the Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade. The committee had a particular focus on ensuring the Population Viability Analysis was scientifically robust and the full range of koala management options were examined.

Key to acceptance of the plans was recognition the upgraded highway will provide numerous mitigation measures including animal crossings, fauna fencing and koala habitat trees which can contribute to management of the remaining koala population.

“Roads and Maritime is committed to working with the community and stakeholders to protect wildlife along the Pacific Highway both during building and operation and we will continue to apply experiences and successes from other upgrade projects to ensure the highest level of biodiversity protection,” the Roads and Maritime spokesperson said.

ROADS AND MARITIME SERVICES MEDIA UNIT 8588 5999 or media@rms.nsw.gov.au

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