Friends of the Koala care co-ordinator Pat Barnidge is concerned the Pacific Hwy upgrade is impacting the local koala population.
DANGER ZONE: Friends of the Koala care co-ordinator Pat Barnidge is concerned the Pacific Hwy upgrade is impacting the local koala population.
WORK on the Pacific Highway near Bangalow and Ewingsdale has been responsible for the deaths of at least four koalas, with many more being displaced.
According to Friends of the Koala’s care co-ordinator Pat Barnidge, the highway upgrade has been “horrendous” for koalas.
“There have been at least four koalas killed as a direct result of the Pacific Highway upgrade, but it could be more,” Ms Barnidge said.
She told The Northern Star of one koala rescued from a paddock “a million miles from trees”, where it was being licked by cows. Another was spotted trying to climb over bollards near the speed camera on St Helena hill, and another in a machinery storage area.
Four koalas have been rescued near Granuaille St in Bangalow and moved to safer areas.
“We are getting reports from people saying ‘I’ve never seen a koala here before’,” Ms Barnidge said.
“It’s definitely had an impact – directly resulting in death and indirectly upsetting their territory.”
Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass said she has been in contact with both the road building contractors, Balderstone’s, and the Roads and Maritime Services whenever a koala fatality had occurred.
“They all listen but when it comers down to changing what is in place, there is always a reason why that is not possible. (They say) that would expose motorists, humans, to greater risk – there is always a reason why what is in place cannot be changed,” she said.
The koala is listed as a nationally threatened species but Ms Vass said the protections that were supposed to be triggered by that status didn’t always translate on the ground to works that had all of their approvals in place and were already in progress.
A representative for RMS said ensuring major road projects caused minimal impact to wildlife was a priority.
“Roads and Maritime is working to reduce potential impact to koalas on this corridor with crossing points, exclusion fencing and off-site tree plantings included in the highway design,” the representative said.
“The speed limit along this stretch has been reduced to 80kmh and additional signs installed to inform motorists they are passing through a koala habitat.”
A public meeting to discuss the impact of the Pacific Hwy on Koalas in Ballina will be held tonight at the Ballina RSL from 7pm.
Story By Andy Parks | 18th Feb 2014 6:00 AM