Koala Koalition hoping to save koala corridor on Trotter Rd

An aerial photo showing the position of The Boardwalk development, adjacent to the Sunrise Village with Nelson Bay Road immediately to the south. The red triangles show koala sightings/rescues/releases from BioNet records. North of the Boardwalk and its dam, a narrow impenetrable strip of bushes and trees, with no Swamp Mahogany, is being proposed as the koala corridor. Further north brackish swamps and mangroves connect to Tilligerry Creek.

 

KOALA Koalition EcoNetwork Port Stephens is spearheading a last ditch effort to save what they say is the only viable koala corridor moving east to west on the Tomaree Peninsula.

The Boardwalk development, by Ingenia, is where Council has the opportunity to draw a line for the future of the species and say no to further loss of critical habitat.

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At the corridor’s neck at Bobs Farm, multinational company Ingenia is seeking Council’s approval to significantly change the previously approved ‘Boardwalk’ development.

Conservationists say, if approved, it will see the demise of a narrow band of Forest Red Gum and Swamp Mahogany between a dam and the proposed development, effectively preventing koala movement east-west.

Carmel Northwood of the Koala Koalition told News Of The Area, “Port Stephens Council has the power to protect a critical pinch point for koalas moving through the Tomaree Peninsula east to west, north of Nelson Bay Road; that is pending approval for the developer’s bulldozer – the decision will be made Tuesday 26th October.”

Local community groups, including Koala Koalition EcoNetwork Port Stephens and Tomaree Residents and Ratepayers Association, say this is a crucial decision for the last meeting of this Council.

In a media statement the Koala Koalition said, “We need to protect this koala corridor north of Nelson Bay Road to ensure koalas’ unencumbered movement along the Tomaree Peninsula and not give way to developers’ greed to gain a few more dollars at the cost of our wildlife.”

The statement goes on to say, “The developer claims that Swamp Mahogany trees immediately north of the dam are a substitute corridor however they could not have ground-truthed their claim.

“Independent expert botanists have pushed their way through the dense wetland scrub, too dense and often too deep in water for koalas, and found no Swamp Mahogany.

“This is not a feasible corridor.”

The concern is that the proposed modified layout will reduce the corridor to just 5 metres wide between a dam on the Ingenia property and Tilligerry Creek.

This narrow strip is under water during king tides and large rain events.

This is a critical ‘pinch point’ in the remaining east-west habitat corridor north of Nelson Bay Road.

The extensive bushland south of Nelson Bay Road is too dry to be suitable for koala movement or habitat.

When The Boardwalk was first approved as a ‘caravan park’ in 2008, the Sunrise Village immediately to the south was not even proposed.

Together these two over 55’s lifestyle developments have now potentially created a fenced concrete jungle extending from Nelson Bay Road north to the wetlands of Tilligerry Creek, impossible for koalas to navigate – unless the remaining corridor of koala-friendly trees is retained without barrier fencing.

The community groups are calling for residents to make their thoughts on this issue known to their Councillors immediately.

They are also calling on the Council to investigate options with the State Government under the NSW Koala Strategy to work with the landholders to maximise their options for diversifying income while protecting koala habitat on their land, or alternatively compulsorily acquire the land.

Northwood went on to say, “This is Council’s last opportunity to rectify the past inappropriate decisions permitted through a now rectified planning loophole, which facilitated approval for a tourist park to morph into to a housing development on concrete slabs, with only two caravan spaces remaining to meet the planning requirements.

“The people of Port Stephens are appealing to Council to do right by koalas and reject Ingenia’s proposed changes to The Boardwalk development, and to further consider retaining vital habitat to allow koalas and other wildlife to move freely between habitat to the east and west,” she said.

Ingenia’s proposal seeks to convert approved short term caravan sites into lots for more permanent dwellings.

Koala Koalition are suggesting that a reasonable ‘trade off’ for this would be for Ingenia to pull the development footprint back to the south to allow koalas and other native wildlife to move freely between habitat to the east and west.

Residents of ‘The Boardwalk’ would be able to enjoy the koalas using the corridor – which local community groups believe is an excellent marketing point.

Concerned residents should make contact before Tuesday 26 October to: PSC Mayor and Councillors on 02 4988 0255 or [email protected] – ask for your message or email to be forwarded to all Councillors, you can also contact Ingenia on 1300 132 946.

 

By Marian SAMPSON

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