Pacific Hwy upgrades could benefit koalas, Gay insists
NEW South Wales Roads Minister Duncan Gay has been asked outright to publicly announce how many koalas are predicted to die as a result of upgrades to the Pacific Hwy.
Labor MP Shaoquett Moselmane was direct in his question, asking for the "exact number of koalas that are projected to perish".
Mr Gay was less forthcoming with his answer.
He outlined the measures being put in place to protect koalas - 16km of fencing on each side of the highway, quadrupling the number of fauna crossing structures, a land bridge at least 30m wide north of the Richmond River crossing south of Bagotville and the planting of 130ha of eucalyptus trees.
But he would not budge on whether studies had estimated the number of koalas who would die despite the mitigation efforts.
He suggested the highway's construction could actually benefit the existing colony.
"The key findings of the plan are that the Ballina koala population will decline over time with or without the road," Mr Gay said.
"The Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade has the potential to cause a small adverse impact on the population, which can be offset by implementing additional mitigation measures to address koala deaths.
"The effective additional mitigation could improve the situation for koalas above the current projections without the upgrade.
"Roads and Maritime Services, other authorities and the community can significantly improve the viability of the Ballina koala population through implementing a range of other measures, including addressing koala mortalities on road networks outside the scope of this project and predator control." -APN NEWSDESK