BETTER ROUTE: Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass with a furry friend and others lobbying Don Page to help save an important koala population along the Woolgoolga to Ballina highway upgrade.
BETTER ROUTE: Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass with a furry friend and others lobbying Don Page to help save an important koala population along the Woolgoolga to Ballina highway upgrade. Andy Parks

Changing upgrade route would ‘save koalas and money’

THERE are cheaper and more direct routes for the Woolgoolga to Ballina highway upgrade that would not destroy important koala populations around Meerschaum Vale, Blackwall Range and Coolgardie.

That was the message a group of koala supporters took to Don Page's office in Ballina, hoping to spur the Minister for the North Coast into action.

Ballina Councillor Jeff Johnson said an option to widen the existing road corridor with bypasses around Broadwater and Wardell would be the best option to protect the koala populations and still have the motorway built in a timely manner.

The RMS's preferred section 10 route has been identified as having the potential to wipe out a colony of up to 200 koalas.

A report to the Ballina council, funded by the Office of Environment and Heritage, identified the koalas there as being "a key source population for breeding and dispersal" and suggested it should be listed as an "important population" under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act. As the koala is listed as a vulnerable species, Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt can make a determination to protect them.

Campaigners say Don Page can lobby the state roads and planning ministers who can approve route alterations.

"The RMS is gung-ho and ploughing through this regionally significant koala population... when there are less environmentally damaging and cheaper routes," Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass said.

Mark Byrne, a sugarcane farmer said the koala study presented to the Ballina council was "a game changer".

"They can't put a highway through and expect them (koalas) to survive. They'll be wiped out," he said.

Mr Page was not in. He said in a statement he had "passed their concerns to the Minister for Roads."


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