Koala Habitat At Risk From New Highway
John Bynes at Old Petrie Town where one 300-year-old fig tree will be destroyed. Photo: Tony Moore.
Koalas will emerge as a political flashpoint in Southeast Queensland in 2014-15 as a Queensland government will again test a proposal to clear koala habitat to build a new highway.
In 1995 it was at Logan. This time it is at Petrie.
Koalas, highways and governments
A koala protection sign in the park at Petrie that will be dissected by the planned bypass. Photo: Tony Moore.
Almost 20 years ago, in 1995 the Goss government backed a plan to build an alternative to the Pacific Highway to the Gold Coast through koala habitat at Logan.
Labor ended up losing nine seats and clung to office, but eventually lost government in February 1996 after a court-ordered by-election in the Townsville seat of Mundingburra.
Effectively debate over the loss of koala habitat in the “Koala Highway” changed a government in 1995.
Old Petrie Town. Photo: Tony Moore.
Now, two conservative governments; Campbell Newman’s Queensland government and Tony Abbott’s federal government have been asked to provide $125 million for a bypass at Petrie.
Already in Petrie, there is the emergence of two community groups similar to the 1987 community protest group against Toowong’s Route 20, Citizens Against Route 20 (CART).
In the 1980s community protesters used talkback radio, newspaper letters to the editor pages and television crews to build momentum.
Koala signs are common throughout Petrie. Photo: Tony Moore.
In 2013 they have added social media.
It is a complex issue and until this week, when Fairfax Media took an interest, only attracted local newspaper coverage.
This will change as the issues begin to focus.
Young’s Crossing Road has flooding problems. Photo: Tony Moore.
What is the problem?
Moreton Bay Regional Council has a flooding problem.
Youngs Crossing Road near Petrie is flood-prone and it has been a problem for the past 50 years.
In recent years the council has bitten the bullet and begun to investigate options.
Consultants Arup came up with 10 options, but the council rejected their and have gone ahead with what is called “Option G.”
You can read their original options here.
Arup originally recommended extending Young’s Crossing Road in a bridge over the North Pine River to an existing road at the bottom of Andrew Petrie Drive.
The cost estimate for Option B is $67 million in 2012 dollars.
Arup made these comments in September 2010 when they studied the project and recommended linking to Andrew Petrie Drive (Option B).
“It was identified that Option B received the highest weighted and unweighted score. This option scored the highest in minimising environmental impact, contractibility and has the lowest estimated capital cost.
“Options G and A scored the next best scores respectively. Whilst both of these options achieve the goals set out by council they did them at a higher economic cost.
“It is worth noting that Option G had a substantial environmental impact when compared to both Options A and B.”
Moreton Bay Regional Council has instead recommended Option G.
What is Option G?
Option G means building a large bridge across the North Pine River, across a large oval used by a pony club, then through parts of Old Petrie Town – used for popular Sunday markets – then across Dayboro Road, then through clearly-marked koala habitat right near Lake Kurwongbah.
The cost of Option G is $89 million in 2012 dollars, $125 million in the 2013 business case.
For what it is worth, the Facebook page for the group supporting Option G has “56 likes.”
The Facebook page for the group opposing Option G, has 282 member groups, with hundreds of likes supporting their objection.
It is also backing a new petition that has 1610 signatures calling for a fresh look at Moreton Bay Regional Council’s decision to support Option G.
What does Moreton Bay Regional Council say?
Moreton Bay Regional Council ignored nine questions asked by Fairfax Media and simply provided a standard, all-purpose answer despite being given two days to answer.
One of those questions was why shift to Option G.
“Those matters will be examined in detail if and when the project attracts funding from the state or federal governments,” a spokesperson said in a written statement.
“A commitment from the state or federal government for the significant majority of funding for the project will be required for it to proceed to planning and consultation.”
However some information can be drawn from the June 2013 business case.
The project in general:
– Young’s Crossing Road carries 13,000 cars a day;
– between 2008 and 2012 there were 40 traffic accidents on the lower section of Young’s Crossing Road;
– the big expanse of bridge will provide a 1:100 year flood immunity; and,
– the business case says changes to the Option G route will prevent most damage to Old Petrie Town.
What they propose?
– A huge, multi-span bridge over North Pine River.
– three underpasses north of Dayboro Road including:
– a dedicated koala crossing north of the roundabout;
– a bridge downstream of the Lake Kurwongba spillway, and
– another culvert which will be fitted with appropriate koala “furniture” to let koalas cross.
What about Old Petrie Town?
Its a historical village, linked to the Petrie family which gives the region its name.
It is now run by the YMCA.
The above-ground bypass proposal runs down one side of the historical village, meaning three buildings have to be shifted and at least one, 300-year-old fig tree being destroyed.
The West Petrie bypass business case says:
“While no detrimental impacts to existing facilities or infrastructure of European cultural heritage will occur as a result of the refined alignment, the new link road will be in close proximity to sites of local cultural heritage significance,” it reads.
“In particular, the proposed alignment intersects the allotment containing a number of structures, including the North Pine Presbyterian Church, which is listed on the Queensland Heritage Register.”
Lynne Argent runs the “Ole Lolly Shop” at Old Petrie Town.
“I believe Option G will totally and utterly wreck the park,” she said.
“From the plans that I have seen it is so close to the edge of the park, no-one is going to want to come off a major traffic flow into a park,” she said.
Ms Argent said Moreton Bay Regional Council had not spoken to traders.
“Never. The council promised us a meeting and it never happened.”
“No-one has come close to us. I have tried to talk to people in council about it, but you just get fobbed off.”
Is the state government concerned about the impact on koalas?
A spokesman for Environment and Heritage Protection Minister Andrew Powell said councils “were responsible for planning and development approval and how these impact on koala habitat.”
“Councils are required to achieve a net gain in habitat across their local government areas.
“They are also responsible for managing the impacts on koalas of any community infrastructure they build.
The West Petrie Bypass is an example of such infrastructure.”
The spokesman said Mr Powell has written to Moreton Bay’s Mayor Alan Sutherland.
“Minister Powell has received a number of representations from the community expressing concern about the proposed Option G and has written to the Mayor of Moreton Bay Regional Council,” he said.
“He is seeking advice on how council intends to address these concerns and possible impacts of the proposal.”
On Monday, the opponents’ view.
Story By Tony Moore | brisbanetimes.com.au senior reporter.