World News – UA – ‘Net gain’ for koalas on approval of controversial career expansion: Ley


Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley has said strict conditions imposed on controversial quarry extension that would free 52 hectares of « net gain » habitat for threatened marsupials

Hanson Construction Materials’ application to expand its quarry at Brandy Hill, inland from Port Stephens on the north central coast, over 25 years, was approved by the New South Wales government in July

Environment Minister Sussan Ley has approved a controversial plan to expand a quarry on the north coast of New South Wales Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

International and local environmental groups have waged a high-profile campaign against the project, which they say will further reduce valuable habitat and add unnecessary stress to koalas

Ms Ley assessed the project under the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which requires federal monitoring of endangered species such as koalas

Announcing that federal approval was granted on Tuesday, she said Hanson would be required to create 74 hectares of new koala habitat, incorporating a mix of important habitat trees necessary for koalas for healthy diets This is in addition to an NSW requirement for 400 hectares of habitat to be acquired and retained in perpetuity to offset expansion

Ms Ley said the development conditions imposed on Hanson meant the area would not be deprived of critical habitat for koalas and would in fact provide a « net gain for local koalas by providing better quality habitat than the one that currently exists « 

But Greens spokeswoman Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the approval was « bad news » for koalas. « The minister’s attempt to leverage the benefits of a ‘ compensation ‘to calm down his decision is insulting, « she said

Koalas face unprecedented threat from habitat loss, with black summer 2019-2020 bushfires burning 25% of state’s remaining koala habitat

Speaking after NSW Planning Minister approved the expansion, state Environment Minister Matt Kean questioned the project

« My message to the Federal Minister of the Environment is: ‘You should take a very close look at this decision by Brandy Hill because a lot depends on the decision you are going to make, » « said M Kean last month

Ecological consultancy firm Biolink assessed the site on behalf of the federal government, measuring koala activity at regular intervals over 640 hectares and carrying out spotlight searches for three non-consecutive nights Floodlights covered an area of 29 hectares and did not directly observe koalas

However, male koalas were heard calling out at night, one of which was later located With the exception of two areas with high koala use located towards the southern edge of the site, activity elsewhere was mostly comprised of old droppings (which are hard to distinguish from possums when not fresh)

The study estimates that up to 18 koalas could be present in the 640 hectare area, with up to two in the 52 hectares of habitat that would be removed

Biolink’s lead consultant Dr Stephen Phillips said the population estimate was based on available evidence for the presence of koala bears coupled with population density projections that could be supported by the local habitat

Dr Phillips said the best habitat was located in the southern areas of the site, where the new habitat was to be established. It might become suitable for « main koala habitat » which would be able to support a breeding population resident, he declared

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

News from around the world – AU – ‘Net gain’ for koalas under approval controversial career expansion: Ley


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