Years of research shows fauna crossings on Pacific Highway are a success

23 October 2015

Years of research carried out by Roads and Maritime Services has shown animals including koalas, potoroo and other species will use a range of structures to successfully cross upgraded sections of the Pacific Highway.

A Roads and Maritime spokesperson said the ABC has misappropriated a comment made in a technical report to wrongly suggest koalas do not use structures such as land bridges and underpasses to safely cross over or under upgraded sections of the Pacific Highway in a news item broadcast this week.

“During the past 15 years more than 190 monitoring events have been carried out to learn more about the use of structures by native animals to make successful crossings,” the spokesperson said.

“Roads and Maritime has evidence including reviews completed by external experts to show connectivity structures which are installed appropriately and supported by fencing and other mitigation measures protect koalas from vehicle strikes and allow movement across the road.

“Monitoring of the Yelgun to Chinderah Pacific Highway upgrade between March 2014 and February this year showed koalas use overpasses north of Byron Bay to access the other side of the highway.

“Photographs were recorded of a female and joey crossing the Taggarts Hill land bridge in December last year.

“A report prepared by Australian Museum Business Services for completed Pacific Highway projects such as Bonville and Yelgun to Chinderah also concluded underpasses provided a safe route for koalas to cross.

“Genetic variation in koalas near these two upgrades was found to be relatively high suggesting the population had not been impacted by the long existence of the Pacific Highway.

“Roads and Maritime has spent the past 20 years developing, refining and improving connectivity measures for all native fauna, not just koalas and the upgrade of the Pacific Highway has been recognised across Australia and internationally as a leader in reducing animal strikes and maintaining habitat connectivity.

“Roads and Maritime is continuing to carry out unprecedented work to better understand the Ballina koala population as part of the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade.

“Six months of extensive field surveys have been carried out by independent experts to collect genetic and demographic information about the koala population. More than 50 koalas have been examined as part of this process.

“NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Professor Mary O’Kane is leading a panel of experts, independent to the project team, to review all ecological information on the Ballina koala population and make recommendations on the suitability of mitigation measures to protect the koala.

“We will continue to work with the relevant government agencies and community to help mitigate and minimise impact during all phases of this critical infrastructure project.”

Key facts on Woolgoolga to Ballina:

  • About 25 fauna crossing structures will be installed along the upgrade near areas where koalas frequent
  • About 130 hectares of koala food trees will also be planted to further encourage koalas to access the crossing structures
  • Nearly 16 kilometres of fauna fencing will be installed to prevent animals from reaching the roadway
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