Friends of the Koala is calling on the State government to demonstrate its commitment to the NSW Koala Recovery Plan released towards the end of 2008 by acting decisively for the long-term viability of the Tweed Coast koala population.
In launching the Recovery Plan, Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, Carmel Tebbutt, drew attention to the fragile status of koalas east of the Great Divide when she said: “Of particular concern are the populations on the North Coast – an area which once boasted large numbers of koalas.”
“Within weeks of the launch the Environmental Assessment for the controversial Kings Forest development near Kingscliff was placed on public exhibition by the Department of Planning on 17 December 2008, just eight days before Christmas,” Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass said.
“In its submission to the Department, Friends of the Koala expresses very grave concern about the impact that the proposed development will have on the local koala sub population.
“In our view there is a very strong likelihood of the extinction of the koala population on King Forest lands and of the surrounding populations, unless core koala habitat is increased and essential vegetation linkages are well-established in advance of the urban development proceeding.
The Koala Plan of Management (KPoM) accompanying the proposal is clear that while there are opportunities to improve vegetation for koalas in the long term, there will be negative impacts in the immediate to short term. Native vegetation that koalas are presently utilising will be removed to make way for construction.
“We are saying to the State Government that any negative impact on the existing population is totally unacceptable.
“Compensatory planting to achieve a net gain of core koala habitat in the long term cannot be justified given the KPoM’s acknowledgement that any mortality will be significant.
“We want the Government to put the urban development on hold until habitat replenishment is assured – this could take around 10 years.”
Mrs Vass said Friends of the Koala was in no doubt that the timing of the exhibition period will result in fewer submissions from members of the public than would otherwise be the case.
“A week out from the exhibition deadline, many people in the Tweed community are only now becoming aware of the proposal being a project to which Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 applies,” she said.
Mrs Vass said the Minister for Planning has directed her department to continue receiving submissions on Kings Forest until 2 March 2009.
The Environmental Assessment documentation can be accessed locally at:
- Tweed Shire Council: Murwillumbah and Tweed Heads Offices
- Department of Planning North Coast Regional Office, Grafton
- Online at the Department of Planning’s Major Projects website http://majorprojects.planning.nsw.gov.au