THE proposed Quarry expansion at Brandy Hill has attracted a new expert opinion report which recommends that the Federal Environment Minister overturn a NSW Government planning approval which will destroy 52 hectares of core koala habitat in Port Stephens.
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Port Stephens koalas are under threat from loss of habitat, vehicle strike and dog attacks as well as illnesses such as chlamydia.
The University of Newcastle’s Dr Ryan Witt and Associate Professor John Clulow concluded in their report that the Brandy Hill Quarry expansion would sever an East-West koala corridor, disrupt vital breeding processes, and destroy high suitability koala habitat critical to the survival of local and state-wide koala populations.
In the aftermath of the 2019-2020 bush fires the koala population across Australia has been decimated and the survival of the species in the wild is under threat.
NSW Shadow Environment Minister, Kate Washington, told News Of The Area, “This project will sever an East-West koala corridor, reduce known breeding opportunities, and destroy high-value koala habitat.
“And yet, two months ago it was approved by the NSW Government without a care in the world… It’s unbelievable.”
“It’s inconceivable that this project could be approved on the back of the Black Summer bushfires and in the wake of the recent Parliamentary Inquiry into koala habitat.
“Bulldozing 52 hectares of core koala habitat in an area where there are healthy, breeding koalas is contrary to every recommendation of the inquiry.
“This is how koalas become extinct.
“Premier Berejiklian and Environment Minister Matt Kean are very fond of photo opportunities and announcements with cute koalas, but when it comes to protecting their habitat, they’re entirely missing in action.
“It’s their land clearing laws that allows reckless projects like this to be approved.
“The Government’s laws are so weak, even their own planning commission wants them strengthened.”
In a rare public comment the Independent Planning Commission in reviewing the Brandy Hill Quarry Expansion project requested that the Berejiklian Government “reevaluate the policy framework under which the impact on koalas is required to be assessed.”
“Thank goodness my community cares about koalas so much that they’ve been prepared to fight for their survival in the face of a government that couldn’t care less,” said Ms Washington.
Dr Witt and Associate Professor Clulow’s report has been sent to the Federal Environment Minister, Sussan Ley, who is now required to assess the project against the Commonwealth’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
Minister Ley’s decision is anticipated to be made by 8 September 2020. “This expert report lays waste to the NSW Government’s pathetic koala protection laws. Now it’s up to Federal Minister Sussan Ley to step in and protect this vital breeding habitat,” concluded Ms Washington.
News Of The Area approached the NSW Liberal Party for comment, but none was received at time of publication.
By Marian SAMPSON