Letter: Airport expansion threat to koalas

Port Macquarie has an internationally renowned koala population and lots of tourists from all over the world come here to see the koalas. 

Over the last 40 years the Port Macquarie koalas have lost habitat continuously. It has now been predicted the Port Macquarie koala population could be extinct in a few decades. Now some people may think that koalas in NSW are protected by legislation but in practice this is not true. 

The application by the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council for Biodiversity Certification of the proposed Airport Expansion site is a classic example for several reasons. 

Bio-banking and Biodiversity Certification work by giving a number (credits) for each biodiversity value of the development site which are then paid by the developer and may be traded for a similar site (like for like) which will be protected. Or the developer can just pay money into a Biodiversity fund. 

Once the flora and fauna on the proposed development site become a number on a spreadsheet they cease to be an animal or a plant and they just vanish, figuratively and literally. 

Fortunately Port Macquarie has the Koala Preservation Society to ask the question, what will happen to the koalas on site? 

The first idea was to move them down to Thrumster but that’s not very far away and the koalas would want to go back home. Now they are going to plant trees somewhere and over the next 20 years they will bulldoze the koala habitat and expect the koalas to happily move into the new trees. 

This is an important piece of remnant bushland which contains core koala habitat as well as habitat for other threatened species. It should be protected, not sacrificed.

My second point about legislation not protecting koalas is also illustrated in this Biodiversity Certification application. Evidently 6.07 hectares of land within the proposed Airport Expansion site has already been approved for private native forestry by the Environment Protection Authority despite the presence of core koala habitat. 

The PNF Code of Practice prohibits logging in core koala habitat. How can this be? No surveys are required to determine if private land has core koala habitat and if it is not mapped (as in a Koala Plan of Management) then there are no other checks, not even if there are records of sightings, and the approval is given. 

In this case the PNF approval was given in 2011 and Biolink mapped the CKH in 2012 in preparation for the Port Macquarie- Hastings Koala Plan of Management. Will this approval to log be revoked now that it is mapped Core Koala Habitat?

At the moment koalas have no real protection from private native forestry in the Port Macquarie-Hastings Shire or the Kempsey Shire

I conclude by asking is the airport expansion really necessary? 

Dr Vanessa Standing, Dondingalong

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