Pacific Hwy route will wipe out koalas, councillor says

A COUNCILLOR has highlighted the issues with the proposed Pacific Highway route and the local koala population before Lismore City Council vote on the topic. 

Councillor Simon Clough said the Road and Maritime Services' proposed route for the Pacific Highway for the Richmond River to Coolgardie Road, Wardell section, which goes through the Blackwall Range, will destroy 350 ha of koala habitat.

"Renowned Koala expert, Dr Steve Phillips believes that the Blackwall Range Koala colony of at least 200 animals is the source population for Lismore's Koalas," Cr Clough said.

"This area is a Koala refuge with the colony showing few signs of sickness or disease."

"It's critical for the long term survival of Lismore's Koalas that this colony remains viable and protected from the known threats and in particular from the threat of a four lane highway dividing the colony." 

"The RMS steadfastly refuses to seriously consider the upgrade of the existing highway which is at least 2.4kms shorter than its preferred option and far less destructive of the natural environment."  

"The RMS' proposed route also threatens Aboriginal scar trees and sacred sites as well as numerous threatened species including the long nosed potoroo."

Lorraine Vass President of Friends of the Koala said she had no doubt that the preferred route would wipe out Ballina's southern koalas.

"If they survive the construction phase … together with the incidental road-hits which are bound to continue, the already fragile balance will tip irretrievably and extinction will be inevitable," Ms Vass said.

Over 50,000 people have signed petitions calling for the highway upgrade to avoid the wildlife corridor and yet the State Government remains committed to wiping out the Koalas and other vulnerable or threatened species.

Lismore City Council are set to hold a vote on this issue tonight.