Koala

Roads and Maritime Services takes environmental conservation and protection seriously and seeks to avoid where possible, minimise, mitigate or compensate for the impact on sensitive ecology in all our highway upgrade projects.

The 155 kilometre Woolgoolga to Ballina project has been approved by the NSW and Australian governments. The approvals come with strict conditions about managing the project’s impact on the environment, including the koala and other threatened species.

Koala team
Jet the koala detection dog

News and innovations

Meet Jet the koala detection dog. Jet is a Field Springer Spaniel and had a big responsibility during pre-clearing surveys as part of the phased resource reduction program.

His job is to check for evidence of fresh koala activity. A dog is able to detect a scent 1000 times better than humans and cover more land more efficiently to determine recent koala activity in the area.

When Jet finds koala activity he sits, helping his handler to locate the koala that maybe present in the area. He loves his job and he also loves his reward for finding koalas – playing with his favourite ball. Jet is trained to work quietly without barking, to avoid snakes and chasing native fauna and never takes food from the ground (in case it is a bait).

When the koala detection dogs identify fresh koala scats a buffer zone is established around the koala so it can safely relocate in its own time before clearing starts.

Updates and announcements

Koala Management Plan community update

The Woolgoolga to Ballina Koala Management Plan and Ballina Koala Plan sets out our mitigation and monitoring actions to reduce the project’s impact on the environment.

The February update (PDF, 579Kb) reports on our progress in implementing the plans, with a focus on koala populations in the Richmond River to Coolgardie Road section

Koala rescue procedure

As part of the Woolgoolga to Ballina project’s Koala Management Plan we have implemented a clear rescue procedure to follow when koalas are observed in or near the project boundaries. The flowchart shows the steps and action taken to ensure koalas are kept safe.

Phased resource reduction

The Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway Upgrade Koala Management Plan proposed a staged approach to removing vegetation. This staged approach, called phased resource reduction, is being carried out in two koala hotspots in Section 10 – Laws Point and Wardell Road.

Phased resource reduction involves the gradual reduction of food resources by ring-barking and collaring trees as well as monitoring koala populations. We are doing this to encourage koalas to move into habitat areas away from construction.

Reports on the five phases in the resource reduction process will be made available once each phase is complete.

Koala Cortisol Stress Study

University of Sydney in partnership with Roads and Maritime undertook analysis of koala scats to detect changes in cortisol levels over time as construction activities progress. Scats were collected across the 5 phases of PRR including the early stages of clearing. The study compares impact sites (adjacent/within alignment at Laws Point) against control sites located approximately 9km from the alignment but within the same koala population. Key outcomes of the study were:

  • no statistically significant difference in the change of cortisol concentrations between control and impact sites for each phase
  • due to low DNA yield from koala scats collected in the field, individual identification of koalas was not possible and so all findings are at the population level
  • an upward trend in cortisol concentrations was evident across both impact and control sites. Drivers of this trend could not be determined
  • ongoing monitoring of the koala populations at both the impact and control sites will ascertain if any change occurs as a result of the construction phase.

View or download the Koala Cortisol Stress Study (PDF, 926Kb).

Koala Health Assessment

The final phase of the PRR program identified possible change in koala distribution. Sandpiper Ecological (2018) recommended a targeted survey to assess the distribution and health of koalas at key locations adjoining the W2B upgrade. Friends of the Koala (FOK) also suggested that targeted surveys be undertaken following clearing to gather additional information on koala distribution and health in vicinity of the upgrade. The aim of the surveys was to supplement the PRR koala population surveys, with a specific emphasis on the health of koalas adjoining the alignment. Key outcomes of the study were:

  • A total of nine koalas were detected within the study area as part of this assessment. This included four koalas that have previously been recorded (as part of PRR surveys) and five additional koalas that had not previously been recorded
  • The results of the Koala Health Assessment reveal positive signs for the local koala population in that in general all koalas recorded were observed to be relatively healthy, with most individuals showing no confirmed visible signs of disease or poor condition.

View or download the Koala Health Assessment (PDF, 1.9 Mb).

Old Bagotville Road (OBR) Connectivity Review

The approval to the Koala Management Plan (Roads and Maritime 2016) required “The provision of temporary fencing along Old Bagotville Road through Wardell Heath to the east of the alignment, should project related construction vehicle movements increase existing traffic volumes on Old Bagotville Road to more than 100 vehicles per day”. Condition 12 of the approval of the Jali and Gibson Borrow site management plan required the connectivity measures for the long-nosed potoroo on OBR shall be reviewed by the secretary 6 months after commencement of material haulage. The aim of this review is to assess connectivity measures for long-nosed potoroo and impacts on koala of retaining the temporary fence for longer than six months are also discussed.

Key outcomes of the review were:

  • The fence is situated in an area of high quality habitat and has most likely affected movement by a small number of individuals. Due to their overlapping home ranges the fence is unlikely to have isolated individual potoroos but rather reduced the frequency of road crossings, by breeding and dispersing individuals and individuals trying to recolonise burnt habitat that was result of a wild fire in September last year
  • The temporary fence is not a total barrier to north south movement and some breeding and dispersal movement across OBR seems likely. The review indicated that there is a low likelihood that the fence would cause population scale impacts on the local population of long-nosed potoroo
  • The installation of a purpose built grid/fauna underpass has some merit but the effectiveness of such a structure in enabling potoroos to cross the road is unproven. Undertaking minor modifications to the existing fence to allow potoroos to move through a small section of fence that abuts primary habitat has been recommended
  • Recommended a feral animal baiting and/or trapping program in the Ngunya Jargoon Indigenous Protection Are north and south of OBR to commence in June 2018, prior to the onset of fox breeding and continue annually for the duration that the fence is in place
  • Recommended signage advising motorists that fauna cross OBR be installed at the eastern fence end and 100m east of the fence end. Options to manage speed at that location should also be considered
  • Continue camera monitoring of the eastern fence end, fence gap, grids, and dedicated potoroo crossing zone. Monitoring should continue for minimum period of six months. Further monitoring should be reviewed after six months based on results.

Recommendations made in the Old Bagotville Road (OBR) Connectivity Review are being adopted by Roads and Maritime.

View or download the Old Bagotville Road Fauna Connectivity Review (PDF, 2.04Mb).

Ballina Koala Plan approved by the Department of the Environment

As part of the Conditions of Approval for the project, we are required to demonstrate impact to the Ballina koala population will be acceptable before building can start in the area known as section 10, which starts at Broadwater and finishes at Coolgardie, south of Ballina.

A Population Viability Analysis (PVA), for a 50-year timeframe has been carried out to demonstrate "the long-term viability of the Ballina koala population, taking into account the impacts resulting from the road upgrade in section 10".

This work is now complete and forms part of a Ballina Koala Plan.

The Koala Expert Advisory Committee (KEAC) chaired by the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Mary O'Kane has guided the process of preparing the plan. Independent members of the Committee have endorsed the Ballina Koala Plan following extensive input and advice from 15 independent scientific experts.

Koala population west of Wardell

Roads and Maritime Services takes environmental conservation and protection seriously and seeks to avoid where possible, minimise, mitigate or compensate for the impact on sensitive ecology in all our highway upgrade projects.

The 155 kilometre Woolgoolga to Ballina project has been approved by the NSW and Australian governments. The approvals come with strict conditions about managing the project’s impact on the environment, including the koala and other threatened species.

We are required to demonstrate the impact to the Ballina koala population will be acceptable before building can start in the area known as Section 10, which starts at Broadwater and finishes at Coolgardie, south of Ballina.

A Population Viability Analysis (PVA), for a 50-year timeframe has been carried out, to demonstrate "the long-term viability of the Ballina koala population, taking into account the impacts resulting from the road upgrade in Section 10.”

This forms part of a Ballina Koala Plan.

While the federal Department of the Environment considers the report, work is progressing on the other 142 kilometres of the upgrade.

Ballina Koala Plan

Roads and Maritime, in line with expert advice has developed a strategy to address conditions of approval relating to management of the koala between Wardell and Coolgardie, near Ballina.

Key features of the strategy include:

  • Establish an expert panel to advise the Minister for Roads and Freight on modelling work and mitigation measures for the Ballina koala population
  • Engage experts to collect more data on the Ballina koala population, carry out the population viability analysis and peer review the analysis
  • Share information with key stakeholders including Ballina Shire Council and its reference group as well as the broader community.

The data collected and subsequent modelling carried out has informed development of the Ballina Koala Plan. This plan has been endorsed by the Koala Expert Advisory Committee established by Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Duncan Gay to provide advice on the population viability analysis modelling and mitigation measures.

Project timeline

August 2014

Project Approval

Roads and Maritime Services receives project approval from the NSW government in June 2014 and the Australian Government in August 2014 with strict conditions about managing the project's impact on the environment, including the koala. One condition requires Roads and Maritime to carry out a Population Viability Analysis (PVA), for a 50-year timeframe, to demonstrate 'the long-term, viability of the Ballina Koala population, taking into account the impacts resulting from the road upgrade in Section 10'.

October 2014

Roads and Maritime engages expert Dr Rod Kavanagh (Niche Environment and Heritage) to:

  • Update Woolgoolga to Ballina Koala Management Plan
  • Carry out Population Viability Analysis
  • Prepare the Ballina Koala Plan for Section 10 in accordance with the relevant NSW and Federal Government project approval conditions.

November 2014

Roads and Maritime engages Ecosure and Biolink experts including Dr Steve Phillips, to carry out additional detailed field surveys, providing important data on the Ballina Koala population.

January 2015

Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Duncan Gay announces the Koala Expert Advisory Committee.

Koala Expert Advisory Committee will report to the Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight and provide advice on the population viability analysis modelling and mitigation measures for the Ballina Koala population.

Professor Mary O’Kane, the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer, chairs the committee. She is joined by two independent koala experts:

  • Professor Katherine Belov, University of Sydney
  • Associate Professor Jonathon Rhodes, University of Queensland.

December 2014 to 31 May 2015

Fieldwork and data collection underway.

Professor Les Christidis and Associate Professor Ross Goldingay of Southern Cross University carry out genetic analysis using tissue samples collected during the fieldwork.

Roads and Maritime would like to acknowledge Jali and Friends of the Koala for their assistance during the fieldwork and data collection phases.

March 2015

Roads and Maritime engages Associate Professor Jonathon Rhodes as the independent reviewer for the NSW and Federal conditions relating to the koala. Professor Rhodes is known for his expertise in koala ecology and conservation management.

June – July 2015

Modelling process starts

Dr Kavanagh starts the population viability analysis modelling, based on the data and outcomes of fieldwork.

August – November 2015

Dr Kavanagh prepares the Ballina Koala Plan to report the results of the population viability analysis to the Koala Expert Advisory Committee.

Late January/Early February 2016

Ballina Koala Plan is submitted by Roads and Maritime to the federal Department of the Environment to determine if the impact to the Ballina koala population is demonstrated to be acceptable.

Koala Expert Advisory Committee

The Koala Expert Advisory Committee (KEAC) was established by Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Duncan Gay to provide advice on the population viability analysis modelling and mitigation measures.

NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Professor Mary O’Kane leads a panel of experts, independent to the project team, which has reviewed all ecological information on the Ballina Koala population and made recommendations on the suitability of mitigation measures to protect the koala. She is joined by two independent koala experts:

  • Professor Katherine Belov, University of Sydney
  • Associate Professor Jonathon Rhodes, University of Queensland.

The panel has reviewed and endorsed the Ballina Koala Plan.

The Chief Scientist and Engineer website provides the Koala Expert Advisory Committee – Terms of Reference.

Population Viability Analysis (PVA) process

Roads and Maritime engaged scientific consultants EcoSure and BioLink, including Dr Steve Phillips, to collect data on the local koala population for the PVA.

Once the data was collected, experienced ecologist Dr Rod Kavanagh of Niche Environment and Heritage analysed it and completed the PVA.

Dr Kavanagh’s report was submitted to the Committee its consideration.

Image gallery

Documents

Koala Management Plan community update

February 2018

Koala Management Plan community update

August 2017

Koala Management Plan, Sections 1-11

July 2016, Version 4.4

Main document

January 2016

Appendix 1

January 2016

Ecosure/ Biolink report

Appendix 2

January 2016

Southern Cross University genetics report

Appendix 3

January 2016

Australian Museum genetics report

Appendix 4

Januaryn 2-16

Roads and Maritime discussion paper on proposed Koala connectivity structures

Appendix 5

January 2016

Friends of the Koala, Lismore and Roads and Maritime Services map of indicative koala road-kill hotspots

Appendix 6

January 2016

Peer review

Appendix 7

January 2016

Proposed project and additional fauna fencing section 10

Frequently asked questions

September 2016

Community questions and responses

April 2016

Frequently asked questions

February 2016

Frequently asked questions on the Population Viability Analysis

January 2015

Frequently asked questions about the route options and constraints related to section 10 of the upgrade

July 2014

Letter providing an update on Regional Koala population west of Wardell

July 2014

Map of the preferred route 2C and suggested alternative option

Map showing flooding predictions in Section 10

Map of the soft soil areas in Section 10

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