Tree clearing for Coffs Harbour Bypass removes koala habitat

Locals are dismayed that koala habitat has been removed.

LOCAL conservationists are dismayed by the clearing of what they say was a vital koala corridor in the development of the Coffs Harbour Bypass.

A local resident provided News Of The Area with photos taken of bypass tree cleaning on the south-eastern side of the Englands Road roundabout, claiming the site to be core koala habitat and a known hotspot for the species.

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The concerned local is now seeking answers as to why so much habitat was cleared at the site.

A Transport for NSW spokesperson said the Coffs Harbour Bypass project team followed the approved process for vegetation removal, including using a koala detection dog.

The spokesperson said the team worked collaboratively with WIRES representatives on koala monitoring, capture, health checks and release into a nearby area.

During the few weeks that vegetation removal was carried out in this area, the project team found three koalas; one moved on without assistance, and two were captured and received health checks.

One has been released and the other is receiving medical support for chlamydia, a common disease found in koalas.

The spokesperson said this approach has been extensively and successfully used in managing risks on the Pacific Highway duplication projects and other Transport for NSW projects close to koala habitat.

Coffs Coast ecologist Mark Graham, who knows the area well, told NOTA, “It has been universally acknowledged, since the 1980s, that ‘Lindsays Cutting’ is the most significant east-west corridor ensuring the survival of the koalas of Boambee and South Coffs.

“Previous road building efforts here have involved mitigation measures to prevent roadkill and long-term monitoring of the koala population present.”

Mr Graham said that, in 2000, Coffs Harbour City Council adopted the first statutory local government area (LGA) ‘Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management’ in NSW.

“Within this instrument, the ‘Lindsays Cutting’ corridor and surrounding primary koala habitat was recognised as being the most important area for the survival of koalas in South Coffs and Boambee.

“It is a massive concern that the koala corridor and extensive areas of primary koala habitat at ‘Lindsays Cutting’ has been entirely removed by Transport for NSW and that no mitigation measures or extra habitats have been created there.

“Our iconic koalas, of which Coffs Harbour and Bellingen share the largest coastal koala colony in NSW, need every bit of existing habitat protected and the restoration of degraded habitats and extensive revegetation in key landscapes in order to survive.”

By Andrew VIVIAN

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