Environment news

Monitoring fauna crossings

We have developed and implemented various threatened species management plans and a biodiversity mitigation framework to ensure biodiversity impacts of the Pacific Highway upgrade are minimised, and the project’s conditions of approval are met. The management plans are being used to document how we are managing and mitigating impacts on threatened species before, during and after building the upgrade.

Highways and wildlife

What is the problem? Wildlife need to be able to move freely through habitats to access food, water and mates. When highways are built, we must provide opportunities for wildlife to safely cross the highway.

What is the solution? Highways can be made safer for wildlife and people by separating traffic and wildlife with fauna crossings and fences.

Do fauna crossing and fences work? Yes! As part of the Pacific Highway upgrade Roads and Maritime has been monitoring wildlife and collecting data for more than 14 years to understand what species are using our connectivity structures. This research informs the measures used in our current, and future, highway upgrade projects.

Threatened species and effective road crossing structures

Potoroo at Tugun Bypass

Long-nosed Potoroo

Why part of Fauna Strategy?: The Long-nosed Potoroo is currently listed as vulnerable under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act (1995) and Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999).

Where found? The long-nosed potoroo population is found in the heathlands west of Wardell, near Ballina and in locations across the Northern Rivers.

Monitoring fauna structures? The Potoroo is nocturnal and hides during the day in dense vegetation often referred to as squat sites. The video shows Long Nosed Potoroo using a 2.4m x 1.8m high dedicated fauna underpass built as part of the Tugan Bypass Pacific Highway project. The video was recorded in 2014 (26/5/14) as part of ecological monitoring program.


 

Squirrel glider

Why part of Fauna Strategy? The NSW Scientific Committee recently determined that the Squirrel glider meets the criteria to be listed as a vulnerable species under NSW legislation and the Commonwealth Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999.

Where found? The Squirrel glider is found at various areas along the Pacific Highway.

Monitoring fauna structures?  Squirrel gliders are nocturnal. The following photos show Squirrel gliders using overhead rope structures to safely cross the Pacific Highway. These photos were recorded between 2006 and 2014 as part of our ecological monitoring program.

Koala

Why part of Fauna Strategy?: The koala is listed as threatened under NSW legislation and the Commonwealth Environment Protection Biodiversity Conservation Act, 1999.

Where found? At numerous locations along the Pacific Highway from Hexham to the Queensland border.

Monitoring? Koalas are usually inactive for 20 hours a day and tend to move on the ground in the cooler times of the day or at night. The picture below captured a koala using a timber structure in a fauna underpass at the Bonville upgrade in 2010.

Koalas also use the dedicated fauna land bridge over the Pacific Highway on the Yelgun to Chinderah upgrade in the Northern Rivers region. The monitoring program showed regular use of the land bridge over different days with a koala and her joey.  These images were captured by Tweed Shire Council monitoring the crossing with permission of Roads and Maritime.

Koala and joey using the fauna land bridge 6/11/14
Koala and joey using the fauna land bridge, 6 November 2014

Sugar gliders

Watch a sugar glider taking off the Arrawarra Creek glide pole on the Sapphire to Woolgoolga project.


Why part of Fauna Strategy? Sugar gliders are currently listed as vulnerable under NSW legislation and unlisted under Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999).

Where found? Sugar gliders are found around the Sapphire to Woolgoolga project, north of Coffs Harbour.

Monitoring? Sugar gliders are social and nocturnal. Sugar gliders, Squirrel gliders and Feathertail gliders have been recorded making numerous glide crossings of the Pacific Highway at this location.

Giant barred frog

Why part of Fauna Strategy? Giant barred frogs are currently listed as a threatened species under the NSW legislation  and Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (1999).

Where found? Giant barred frogs are found along the Pacific Highway route with larger populations around Macksville, Coffs Harbour and along the Woolgoolga to Ballina project.

Monitoring? Giant barred frog use dedicated frog underpasses to pass under the highway. The image below was captured as part of the ecological monitoring program in 2017 for the Sapphire to Woolgoolga project near Coffs Harbour.  The frogs are very hard to detect and the below photo was the first time a giant barred frog was recorded in Australia using a dedicated underpass structure made of a pipe culvert with a mulch bed.

Giant barred frog.

Fauna Rescue on Sapphire to Woolgoolga Upgrade

The Sapphire to Woolgoolga project team has taken on a new initiative to salvage native bees as part of the fauna rescue procedures during clearing. An expert in native bees was engaged in the process.

Commercial honey bees (Apis mellifera) are not native to Australia. They were introduced from Europe in about 1822. There are over 1500 species of Australian native bees. Of these about 14 species are social native bees which form hives (genera Trigona and Austroplebeia) and do not sting. Native bees are also important pollinators of Australia's unique wildflowers and are a vital part of our Australian bushland. Native bee honey is a delicious bush food.

The government has recently released information on methods proposed to be used to combat varroa mites which is a threat to the future of the honey bee industry if it establishes in Australia. One of the recommendations is to expand the use of alternative pollinators or crops such as native bees.

The native bee expert inspected areas prior to clearing and located trees containing hives. Where possible, the hives were salvaged and bees rescued.

The project team is sponsoring an environment information initiative for five high schools in the area. To raise awareness of native bees and their importance, the project team will lease a hive for the schools for six weeks in order for students to gain a better understanding of the native 'stingless' bees. The project team and the native bee expert have compiled an education program which talks about their importance environmentally and to the Aboriginal culture.

Two schools have received the education program to date. Recently a presentation was given to 60 science students at one of the local high schools and was so well received that the teachers have asked for a further program to be conducted amongst the Year 11 science students.

Controlling salvinia on the Kempsey Bypass

A two millimetre long Brazilian insect is proving to be an effective weapon in controlling the weed Salvinia on the Kempsey bypass.

Salvinia is an aquatic, invasive weed listed as a Class 3 noxious species under the Noxious Weed Act 1993. Being a Class 3 weed, the alliance has a responsibility to manage it within the project boundary. As the weed was found at Pola Creek, which is a sensitive environment, Roads and Maritime Services specifications required that the alliance develop an approach to managing the infestation without applying herbicide.

The Kempsey Bypass Alliance released hundreds of the Brazilian insect Salvinia Weevils (Cyrtobagous salviniae) into Pola Creek to help control an outbreak of Salvinia (Salvinia molesta).

Removing the weed from the waterway mechanically had been tried previously on the project, but, because of the extent of the infestation within the local catchment, biological control was investigated.

Salvinia Weevil has been shown to be a highly effective biological control agent in many countries and was first introduced to Australia as a biological control in Queensland in 1980.

Following discussions with Kempsey Shire Council, the alliance contacted the Office of Environment and Heritage and the Department of Industry and Investment (Fisheries), who both supported the introduction of the tiny insect.

The Salvinia weevils were released on 3 March 2011. Since their introduction, they appear to be effectively reducing the amount of Salvinia in Pola Creek. The overall success of the program will be monitored over the coming months.

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