The State Government has been criticised for 'failing' to protect the koala population impacted by the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway Upgrade project.
The State Government has been criticised for 'failing' to protect the koala population impacted by the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway Upgrade project. Kate Czerny

Highway upgrade criticised for 'harming' koalas

THE Berejiklian Government has today been criticised for it's failure to protect the koala population impacted by the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway Upgrade project, following a bushfire which burned through 320 hectares of koala habitat.

Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe presented a motion to NSW Parliament outlining her concerns for the koalas following the installation of the koala exclusion fencing which she said may have trapped koalas fleeing the fire.

According to Ms Sharpe, reports indicate that the fire burned through the 320 hectares of native vegetation over two days on September 4 and 5, including up to the south-eastern edge of the fencing, resulting in extensive loss of koala habitat.

She said the situation is compounded by clearing of koala habitat occurring in the Pacific Highway Upgrade corridor, with associated human and machinery disturbance to the koala population.

"It is a total failure of environmental responsibility from the Government, made worse by their arrogant response ignoring to the concerns of the local community," she said.

"The Government's approach to this road project has all the hallmarks of their usual philosophy when it comes to the protecting the environment: 'ignore the science, develop and clear, and ask questions later.'"

The motion calls on the Government to demonstrate to the community, ecologists and koala wildlife protectors how the current work will be altered to ensure that the koala population is not further harmed in the construction of the Pacific Highway Upgrade.

As part of the highway upgrade, a Koala Management Plan has been implemented which includes a rescue procedure.