The NSW Government greenlights Appin Road upgrades by Transport for NSW. At least 30 koalas lost their lives trying to cross this road last year. We demanded urgent action, but while there are some positives - proposed upgrades fall short.
Positives include upgraded culverts based on community feedback, but the reduction to a single box culvert at Beulah is disappointing. The community's demand for increased road crossings remains unmet, undermining the crucial need for enhanced connectivity.
TfNSW admits complexity in designing underpasses for koalas. Why not opt for proven overpasses? They provide continuous habitat - unlike underpasses - and have been shown to be effective. While TfNSW commits to monitoring the designs, meaningful data could take years to collect and there is no contingency plan if the designs are ineffective. Overpasses provide certainty now, offering a more immediate solution.
The current plan's timing will mean koalas can't move freely for up to 12 months. Crossings will be installed only after road fencing is completed. Immediate crossings are necessary, and waiting for fencing completion is unwarranted.
Mallaty Creek is a critical oversight, as Koalas use this corridor and therefore it requires an overpass, as supported by Dr. Colin Salter (WIRES). An overpass at Mallaty would reduce the distance between crossings, improving habitat connectivity. The current road upgrade neglects this vital corridor, as does the Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan (CPCP), which proposes to cut off this habitat corridor entirely to koalas. The Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan must maintain connectivity at Mallaty Creek. The CPCP must be amended to preserve, widen, and restore this corridor. Choosing to cut off vital habitat contradicts the purpose of a Conservation Plan. The CPCP and Appin Road upgrade seemingly relegate koala conservation to an afterthought. The plans endorse severing vital corridors and constructing long tunnels post-fencing, an unwarranted gamble. Proven alternatives like overpasses offer a more natural and effective habitat connection.
Allowing these compromises in one of the last disease-free Koala colonies in the state, jeopardises the species' recovery. We need to act urgently to protect this colony and avoid similar outcomes elsewhere.