World News – UA – Federal Minister gives green light to koala habitat bulldozer for Port Stephens quarry


Environmentalists accuse Sussan Ley of choosing « rocks over koalas » after approving the destruction of 52 hectares of habitat to expand the Brandy Hill quarry

More than 50 hectares of koala habitat in New South Wales town of Port Stephens set to be cleared after Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley approves quarry expansion

The minister, whose decision comes as the government views the koala as an official endangered list, said on Tuesday that the ministry’s assessment found that the development « would not deprive the area of ​​critical habitat koala « 

Local activists and conservationists called the decision heartbreaking after the state’s worst bushfire disaster last summer They said the environmental conditions that force the developer to plant new trees were « a fig leaf »

Earlier this year, a New South Wales parliamentary inquiry found koalas would be extinct in the state by 2050 unless governments take urgent action to tackle the loss of habitat

The expansion of the Brandy Hill stone quarry in Port Stephens, Hunter region, will free up 52 hectares of habitat and more than double the quarry’s annual output from 700,000 tonnes per year to 15 million tonnes to supply the Sydney construction market

The residents of Port Stephens ran a months-long campaign that drew the support of celebrities including Magda Szubanski, Celeste Barber, Olivia Newton-John, Jimmy Barnes and kd lang calling on Ley to reject the development

« I recognize that the proposal has been the subject of a high profile public campaign that has tapped into the real concerns we all share about koalas and areas affected by bushfires, » Ley said.

The minister postponed her decision until this month to hear from activists, consider ecological assessments of the site and allow the ministry to commission a new independent report from an environmentalist

According to her, on-site assessments concluded that « barely one or two koalas » were present in the proposed construction area and that the work could be managed without affecting the « small pockets » on the southwest edge. of the larger site where the koalas had been sighted by residents

« This is not an area where bush fires have had an impact on local populations or habitat, the area to be cleared is not a site that harbors resident breeding populations and, after considering the recommendations of the department, I approved the proposal, « said Ley

Chantal Parslow Redman, co-campaign manager for Save Port Stephens Koalas, said the government had chosen “rocks over koalas” “It’s a heartbreaking decision,” she said

Parslow Redman said residents involved in the campaign took issue with the government’s opinion that the site does not support breeding populations because they spotted mothers with young near the quarry

« Minister’s statement says this area hasn’t burned down – that’s the whole problem It’s koala habitat, » she said « It just shows that nothing will stop this government from destroying koala habitat « 

Ley said approval was subject to strict conditions, including a requirement that developer Hanson establish new koala habitat near the site

Under the conditions of approval, this would involve replanting 74 hectares south of the site with trees suitable for koalas Hanson was asked to submit a plan for this replanting within the next 12 months

Conditions also require Hanson to commission pre-clearing site surveys to determine if koalas are present in trees to be bulldozed

If koalas are seen, the company has been asked to leave a 25m buffer zone around the tree to be cleared as well as a corridor to allow « koalas to leave for the habitat outside of the area to be cleared ”

Chris Gambian, chief executive of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW, said no amount of tree replanting or koala relocation « will make up for the loss of this critical habitat »

« Given what we know about the state of koalas in New South Wales – they are on the brink of extinction by 2050 – we must treat every bit of koala habitat as absolutely valuable « , did he declare « You cannot reproduce the forest »

Gambian and Parslow Redman both asked what the animals were supposed to do after their habitat was cleared, noting that any new trees would need time to grow

« We only have 200 to 400 koalas left in Port Stephens, » said Parslow Redman « We just don’t have time to wait for a tree to grow, koalas need habitat now « 

Last month, Ley asked the Endangered Species Scientific Committee to consider whether the koala should see its threat status change from vulnerable to endangered due to continued habitat destruction and the effects of fires. bush

The New South Wales Independent Planning Commission approved the Brandy Hill expansion in July and the project is on a list of developments the NSW government wanted to accelerate in response to the Covid-19 pandemic

« Over the past six years, the project has been refined to reduce environmental impacts, » the company said in a statement

« Hanson dedicated an area of ​​74 hectares to establishing koala habitat that would be replanted in five stages, investing more than $ 2 million on the 10-year program Establishing this habitat will ultimately provide better quality koala habitat than what currently exists « 

Koala, Sussan Ley, Minister of the Environment, Brandy Hill, New South Wales

News from the world – AU – Federal Minister gives green light for koala habitat to be bulldozed for Port Stephens quarry


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