Highway upgrade koala management plan

4 July 2014

Experts develop highway upgrade koala management plan

The Minister for Roads and Freight Duncan Gay today announced a team of experts will be brought together to develop a detailed koala management plan for the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade.

The team of experts will be made up of independent environmental professionals recognised for their expertise in koala ecology, conservation and environmental management.

The 155 kilometre upgrade, the final section of highway to be upgraded to a four lane divided road, has been given approval to proceed by NSW Planning and Infrastructure.

This allows the next stages of early work to start, while the overall project is considered by the Federal Department of the Environment.

Minister Gay said the NSW Government was very aware of the presence of koalas along the approved highway corridor between Wardell and Coolgardie, south of Ballina.

“The project team continues to work with NSW and Australian government agencies, Ballina Shire Council and key koala experts to minimise the potential impact of the project,” Minister Gay said.

“While the approved route is located in mostly cleared land we are committed to making sure the koala and other species can safely cross under or over the new highway.

These measures include:

  • Fully fencing nearly 16 kilometres of both sides of the new highway which will be connected to the fauna crossing structures;
  • Increasing the number of fauna crossings suitable for koalas by more than 400 per cent to that proposed in the December 2013 Submissions and Preferred Infrastructure Report (from six to approximately 25 structures by increasing the size of the drainage structures for use by koalas);
  • Construction of a land-bridge (at least 30 metres wide) north of the Richmond River crossing, south of Bagotville; and
  • Planting some 130 hectares of koala food trees on RMS owned land near the new highway corridor where at least 50 per cent will be planted prior to construction and the remainder after construction. More land may become available for planting as RMS completes the property acquisition for this section for the highway upgrade.

“The NSW Government is willing and eager to work with key stakeholders and Ballina Shire Council on the type, final total number and location of these fauna crossings,” Minister Gay said.

"In coming weeks workshops will be held bringing together environmental professionals recognised for their expertise in koala ecology, conservation and environmental management, to inform the koala management plan.

"The NSW Government will also consult with local environment and conservation groups, and key community representatives throughout the plan’s development."

Minister Gay said Roads and Maritime had extensive experience and success in managing major infrastructure projects, which pass through ecologically sensitive environments.

“The approved route is on mostly cleared land, would be fully fenced on both sides and have an increased number of fauna crossings under and over the new highway,” Minister Gay said.

"An important learning from previous experience is that koalas can and do maintain home ranges right to the edge of the highway.

“Exclusion fencing and underpasses will be installed early, before major work starts, to minimise the risk to koalas.

“There will also be clear protocols and training procedures for workers on how to manage potential koala incidents on work sites.

“This will form part of the overall strategy to manage and mitigate the impact on all species.”

The project team is working with Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads and the Moreton Bay Rail project team which has been implementing innovative measures to manage the impact on the local koala populations.

These investigations, the expert workshops and previous project experience will be applied to the development of the detailed koala management plan.

For more information about the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade contact the project team at W2B@rms.nsw.gov.au or by phoning 1800 778 900.

MEDIA: Siobhan McCarthy 0407 791 802

View the original media release (PDF)

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