Potoroo management for Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade

28 November 2014

Roads and Maritime Services has today reiterated its commitment to minimising its impact on biodiversity during major highway upgrades.

Claims by the NSW Nature Conservation Council and Dr David Milledge today about the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade are incorrect.

Roads and Maritime carefully considers all biodiversity issues during route selection and road design for all infrastructure projects.

The Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade was approved by NSW Planning Minister Pru Goward in June this year and Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt in August.

Roads and Maritime General Manager Pacific Highway Bob Higgins said approvals require many strict conditions about managing the project’s impact on the environment, including for koala, potoroo and other threatened species.

"We know potoroos and other species are found in areas nearby the new highway route and to gain project approval for the Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade, Roads and Maritime carried out extensive analysis of local biodiversity for the Environmental Impact Statement,” Mr Higgins said.

"Roads and Martime also conducted 38 site surveys in collaboration with experienced ecologists informed by their specialist knowledge of the species and their habitats.

"Long-nosed potoroos were confirmed at sites including the JALI lands near Wardell.

"Potoroos are a shy animal which like covered areas such as the Wardell heathland. Our studies have confirmed their presence in that area and that they don't like open areas such as the cleared land where the new highway is to be built.

"We will continue with detailed surveys in coming months to inform the Threatened Mammal Management Plan required to meet the conditions set by state and federal approval for the project."

Mr Higgins said on the Pacific Highway in particular, Roads and Maritime has extensive experience and success in managing major infrastructure projects which travel through ecologically sensitive natural environments and habitat areas.

"Part of this success includes always looking for further opportunities to improve the overall design of the highway upgrade and Roads and Maritime is committed to this for the Woolgoolga to Ballina project.

"Roads and Maritime has conducted more than 20 animal studies which focused on use of structures by native animals, from which we found potoroos, koalas and other species will use a range of structures to make successful crossings of the highway including bridges, box culverts and overpasses."

"It is incorrect to suggest that a route parallel to the existing highway would be cheaper and easier to build compared to the approved route.

“A route parallel to the existing highway would be along the eastern bank of the Richmond River and the floodplain would create significant engineering, social and cost constraints.

"It would require significant additional property acquisition including important cane lands, present major soft soil challenges and potentially cost hundreds of millions more to build.

"Roads and Maritime is committed to meeting our conditions of approval for this project and will continue to work with some of Australia's top experts to ensure we get the best possible outcome."

CONTACT: Roads and Maritime Services Media Unit:  8588 5999

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