Tuesday 25 February 2014


Roads and Maritime Services, or RMS (the former RTA), is planning to upgrade the Pacific Highway between Woolgoolga and Ballina on the NSW North Coast.  Some sections of the proposal will have very severe impacts on biodiversity as they pass through areas of native vegetation which are home to a range of native species, some of which are threatened.

One such section is Section 10 from the Richmond River to Coolgardie Road, Wardell.  This section cuts through the Blackwall Range wildlife corridor, including the regionally and nationally significant Lower Richmond Koala population.

Friends of the Koala, Ballina Environment Society and Ballina Councillor Jeff Johnson are running a campaign to have the route on this part of the new highway changed because of the impact it will have on the local koala population.  Koalas in NSW, along with those in the Australian Capital Territory and South-east Queensland, were listed in 2013 as vulnerable under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act.

For the RMS to be planning to put a major highway through prime koala habitat is inexcusable. There are other route options that do not impact on this important biodiversity hotspot, including widening the existing route.

The entire upgrade has been declared a controlled action under the EPBC Act.  So the proponents require approval from the Federal Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, as well as from the NSW Minister for Planning, Brad Hazzard.  Whether these politicians will protect the koalas in this area by forcing RMS to change its plans is debatable.  What may force them to do so is the pressure of public opinion. So letters or emails to these politicians may help - as may signing the on-line petition -  Save Ballina Koalas

Tuesday 11 February 2014


For many years the Clarence Valley was not exactly seen as a hotspot for koalas. In fact many residents did not suspect we even had koalas in the Valley. In a landscape of sugar cane, cattle and sprawling rural development, koalas did not readily spring to mind.

A small but viable koala population was known around Ashby, for which the then Maclean Shire Council developed a plan of management to try to maintain it in perpetuity. But it seemed isolated. The previous Iluka colony was believed extinct, and only a few forestry workers and local landowners with eucalypts on their properties mentioned seeing an occasional koala.

With the introduction of the NSW Wildlife Atlas and the advent of WIRES into the Valley things began to change. At first WIRES' records were hazy - jottings in dog-eared notebooks with little information about where an animal was found. But as the significance of location became clearer so the importance of WIRES' records began to be noticed. No other group was able to collect so much data, about so many different species, in a short space of time, totally free of charge.

Due mainly to WIRES' records we now know koalas survive in scattered numbers along the rivers, creeks and tributaries in a rough crescent around the floodplains. We also know they still exist in Iluka, from where a small but regular inflow of records triggered another survey by ecologist Steve Phillips, whose ensuing report warned Council to tread carefully around Iluka because koalas were returning.

Now the Clarence Valley has been mapped as hosting two meta koala populations, Coffs Harbour/Guy Fawkes to the South and Clarence/Richmond to the north.

Clarence Valley WIRES will hold their next training course on 22-23 March. Anyone interested in rescuing and caring for native wildlife should book by the hotline 6643 4055

Patricia Edwards

Young koala in care

Tuesday 4 February 2014


A Clarence Valley resident has written to Dr Russell Reichelt, Chair of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (MPA) about the MPA's decision to allow 3 million cubic metres of dredge spoil to be dumped in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The text of this letter is printed below.

* * * * * 

I was appalled when I heard that the Marine Park Authority Board had approved the dumping of dredge spoil from the Abbot Point Port development within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. 

Your decision is continuing the dangerous precedent which you set when you allowed spoil from the Hay Point development to be dumped in the Marine Park some years ago.  With this latest decision you are confirming that short-term economic interests are much more important than the protection of the iconic marine ecosystems for which you are responsible.

You have imposed conditions to govern the dumping but just how sure are you that these conditions will be met and that they will actually do what they are supposed to do?

As I understand it, there were other options available for disposal of this dredged material but none of them were canvassed.  Was this because dumping in the Marine Park was the cheapest option?

Given there are other port proposals for the Reef coastline, what are you going to decide next time?  It would seem likely that you will agree again – and again - and again.

Just what consideration have you given to the cumulative effects of this disruption of ecosystems in the Marine Park area?  Have you concluded that there won't be any?

It seems to me that you have caved in to the pro-mining-development Federal and Queensland Governments as well as to the large mining companies.  Your decision is a disgrace.

* * * * * 

The independent grass-roots lobbying organisation GetUp is calling on those opposed to the dumping decision to consider donating to a Reef Fighting Fund which will be used to mount a legal challenge against this decision.  The case will be run by the Environmental Defenders Office of Queensland which will be representing the North Queensland Conservation Council.