Emu aerial survey results for Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade

13 October 2014

Aerial surveys trialled last week of the coastal emu as part of early work for the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade indicated the species is more sparsely located than anticipated.

Roads and Maritime Services completed the surveys using a low flying helicopter across a 250 kilometre square area to record emu movement, distribution and habitat to the east and west of the highway corridor between Pillar Valley and Maclean.

Two surveys carried out for two hours each last Wednesday and Thursday covered areas not readily accessible by foot or vehicle including significant floodplain, cane fields and bush land.

The survey located two emus, which indicated the population is much more sparsely located than anticipated.

A Roads and Maritime Services spokesperson said the pilot found air survey is not the most efficient investigation method due to low population densities and the wide area the species travels.

“Aerial surveys were trialled to reach hard to access areas and to determine their efficiency to calculate the coastal emu population and distribution,” the spokesperson said.

“The $30,000 survey detected many other species of wildlife, including brolga, jabiru and kangaroo.

“Roads and Maritime will use the baseline data to monitor any changes and inform an emu management plan to minimise the potential impact of the project and further develop mitigation measures appropriate and effective for emus and other animals,” the spokesperson said.

Emu exclusion fencing is proposed to be built in areas of highest emu activity along the new alignment before major work starts to allow emus to become accustomed to proposed crossing locations. Tenders for the emu fencing are expected to be invited shortly.

Most of the crossings will be large flood plain bridges and fencing to be installed later this year will be monitored by motion-sensor cameras.

Roads and Maritime is committed to ensuring the best outcome for all threatened species in the development of this critical infrastructure project. The community will be given another opportunity to provide feedback on this section of the project during the detailed design phase.

More information on the conditions placed on Roads and Maritime in designing, building and operating the highway and the proposed strategy to protect the coastal emu can be found at the Woolgoolga to Ballina project page.

CONTACT: Roads and Maritime Services Media Unit:  8588 5999

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