Highway woes for Ballina Koalas

Dr. Stephen Phillips Discusses Research on Ballina's Koalas from International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) on Vimeo.

The Roads and Maritime Service (RMS) agency has recently submitted the Ballina Koala Plan to Environment Minister Greg Hunt.

A key metric to assure population viability is this very simple one: if the breeding rate is actually higher than the mortality rate, then it is likely (but not certain) that the population is viable.

The Executive Summary of the Report indicates that the highway - which is proposed to cut directly through pristine koala habitat - will affect koala mortality by up to an additional 9.7 percent. Section 5.2 of the Report indicates that the koala population has a higher mortality rate than its breeding rate. The Ballina koala population which is at the centre of the report consists of around 230 individual specimens.

The Report also acknowledges that:

"The Koala in NSW is listed as ‘vulnerable’ under the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (TSC Act), and also as ‘vulnerable’ under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act)."

Section 1 of the Report states that "the approval holder must submit for the Minister’s approval a Ballina Koala Plan no less than 3 months prior to the commencement of Section 10. The Minister will only approve the plan and the commencement of Section 10 of the action if the impacts to the Ballina Koala population are demonstrated to be acceptable within the Ballina Koala Plan. The Ballina Koala Plan (this document) must include:

a. The modelling required by Condition 5 and the results of this modelling, and the peer review required by Condition 6; b. Discussion of the future viability of the Ballina Koala population; c. In the context of relevant environmental and economic considerations, any additional avoidance, mitigation or offsets, beyond those required by the NSW approval conditions, proposed to minimise the impacts to the Ballina Koala population; and d. Evidence that any additional avoidance and mitigation measures proposed have been considered in the modelling required in Condition 5.

The approval holder must not commence Section 10 unless the Ballina Koala Plan has been approved by the Minister. The approved Plan must be implemented”."

Considering that the report indicates quite clearly that the koala population is not viable, that a highway which is proposed to cut through koala habitat and will cause further significant mortality to the local koala population, it is of grave concern that the report's proposal in its current form came to be tabled for consideration by the Minister for the Environment.

Reference to 'viability' definition: Koala Planning Guidelines, page 12.

Related Stories and Information:

Trees 'dripping with koalas' along proposed Pacific Highway route - Ballina MP

Ballina's koalas need help, not highway - Josey Sharrod

Save Ballina’s Koala's - Friends of the Koala Inc

Petition: Save Ballina's Koala's - communityrun

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