Friday, 17 February 2017

Koalas in Iluka on the NSW North Coast and coastal development pressure

Who would not get pleasure in seeing this healthy young Koala peering down at them from the foliage?

Photograph supplied by Gabrielle Barto

It was sighted in Paperbark and then later Flooded Gum in Sid and Eileen Gill Park in Elizabeth Street, Iluka all day on Wednesday, 8th February 2017 and is one of those koalas giving lie to the myth much favoured by developers that the local koala population is functionally extinct.

The amateur photographer on the spot, Ms. Barto stated: May be the same koala sighted in Elizabeth St. on 5th January. Both sightings are within 250 metres of Hickey St. Iluka D/A site. One of the criteria for assessing critical koala habitat  (E.P.B.C  Critical Koala Habitat assessment tool) is that one or more koalas are sighted within 2 kms. of the edge of impact area, in this case the Hickey St. (D/A) site, within the last 5 years.

Passions run deep in Iluka not only for koalas, but also more generally for protecting biodiversity for future generations.

Letter to the Editor in the Clarence Valley Independent on 8 February 2017:

15 January at 20:07 

Koala sighting again.

Intersection of Hogan street and Elizabeth streets 5th January 2017 around 9.30 am. (West of the 160 lot development proposal)

Thank you and great work Essential Energy. They got here pretty qiuckly and it was a great relocation to the relative safety of the bush across the road.

This situation came about because of a dog chasing the koala. Hopefully the koala headed back into the Bundjalung National Park (to the East of this location) and to relative safety.

This bush heading back to the national park is going to be largely cleared and broken up if the 160 lot subdivision gets approval. The re-submitted DA still does not include a continuous vegetation corridor for koalas to move in a east west or west east direction!

Koalas will become more vulnerable to dog attack and car strike unless the developer includes a realistic continuous vegetation corridor within the proposed development site.

Belatedly the NSW Coalition Government; is currently beginning the development of a whole of government koala strategy and asking for community feedback on planning issues and its Saving Our Species conservation strategy. At a federal level, the National Koala Conservation and Management Strategy expired in 2014. Word is that a new strategy is in the pipeline but at the moment we’re flying blind.

The best way to protect koalas is a tried and tested one. The scientists that identified the crisis ecoregion problem also identified the solution: large, well-connected protected areas. Only by protecting and connecting remaining koala habitat can the government enact meaningful conservation. Everything else is tinkering round the edges.

And only by demonstrating that it can effectively protect koalas can we have any confidence that the government can protect the rest of Australia’s extraordinary wildlife that doesn’t share the koala’s high profile. [The Guardian, 16 January 2017]

On the other hand professional property developer, climate change sceptic and alternate Clarence Valley Council representative on the NSW Northern Joint Planning Panel, Cr. Andrew Baker, made this characteristically snide comment on Saturday, 11 February 2016 in an email he cc’d to North Coast Voices1:

Thanks Gab for the copy

I hadn't appreciated the significance until your email.

It seems the only Koala sightings in the last 5 years have occurred at exactly the same time as Council is considering significant Iluka Development Applications.

I recall the identical occurrence as Council was about to consider the Anchorage Park expansion.

On the basis of your reports it seems development applications are proving extremely beneficial in attracting Koala to the area. Of course it might take a few more DA's to prove this obvious benefit but I expect this will now encourage further.

Of course I'm not suggesting the ability to encourage Koala is the only reason to support any development application - it will be just one of, if any, benefits to be considered along with disadvantages if any on a case-by-case basis.

Thank you for bringing this supporting information to our attention.


Andrew Baker

The tenor of this comment throws into doubt Cr. Baker’s ability to act as an unbiased council alternate (if called upon) in relation to this particular development application when it is considered by the Northern Joint Regional Planning Panel in March this year.

North Coast Voices was not alone in noticing this comment, as one other recipient of Baker's email made clear when he told the councilor: "I find your comments not only highly offensive, but, given your supposedly impartial decision-making role as Councillor, deeply disturbing."

To which the property developing Cr. Baker's insouciant reply (again cc'd to this blog) was; "It's unfortunate that you are disturbed and offended. Surely that's some personal issue that can't be blamed only on my willingness to state the obvious?

And people wonder why - when all the world loves koalas - they are fast disappearing from this state's coastal landscape?

When deciding to send his reply email as "Reply All", Cr. Baker made a conscious choice to also make his personal views known to council staff having some responsibility for and/or carriage of formal advice to Council-in-the-Chamber in relation to DA SUB2015/0034. Thus muddying the waters considerably, given it is a number of concerned residents' understanding that a final staff report and recommendation on the development application is yet to be delivered.

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