One can hardly fail to appreciate the irony of the claim made on a new sign, erected beside the recently opened Glenugie section of the Pacific Highway, which states that “Your forests are in safe hands”. The very area where the sign now stands was an operating forest just two years ago. In fact, the seven kilometre upgrade saw some 80 hectares of the publicly owned Glenugie State Forest cleared to bare earth to construct the motorway, and more will go before that section is completed.
|Photo: J Edwards|
And that is just the start of the destruction. Another 500 hectares of forest, much of it publicly owned, will be destroyed across the Clarence Valley alone as this motorway progresses. Huge areas of forest will also be lost to the south and north of the Clarence Valley.
When we realise that the distance between the outside of the concrete drains on either side of the motorway is only 38 metres, we have to question why a corridor upwards of 100 metres wide needs to be cleared of vegetation, some of which took hundreds of years to grow.
The environmental failures at Glenugie do not stop there. Despite wildlife underpasses being praised at the opening a few weeks ago, we find mesh fences directing wildlife into standard concrete box culverts, which are unlikely to attract more than the occasional goanna.
The fences themselves are the worst feature, with a barbed wire topped death trap for owls, gliders and flying-foxes. Standing less than 1.5 metre high, which an adult kangaroo could clear from a standing start, the lower mesh section will bar the way of most other terrestrial wildlife, including the kangaroo's joey which will be parted from its mother while she dodges the traffic, putting motorists at risk.
When we consider the assurances made during the consultation process, about how concerned the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) is about protecting iconic species such as the endangered coastal emus, this latest evidence to the contrary is extremely disappointing. Our native wildlife deserve much better.
- J Edwards
The text of this post was originally published in the "Voices for the Earth" column in
The Daily Examiner on 12th December 2011.