The Total Environment Centre has taken aim at prominent developers in a recently released seven-point koala survival plan designed to ensure the beloved native species can continue to thrive in Macarthur.
The plan, released this month, calls for increased koala habitat to be set aside, and a number of measures to protect the marsupials including fencing and overpasses/underpasses.
Jeff Angel, director of the Total Environment Centre (TEC), said there was no time to waste in ensuring the species' survival.
"Now every effort must be marshalled to protect this iconic species," he said.
"Sydney's Macarthur colony has assumed an even greater importance and urgency for protection, as urban development, new major roads and dislocated habitat pose very significant threats.
"The colony is exceptional. The fires at the end of the bushfire season have remarkably left the Macarthur colony unaffected.
"The health of the colony near Campbelltown has become critical to the population's survival in the state."
The TEC's seven highlighted points are:
- Declaration of the Georges River Koala National Park on government and private lands adjoining the River's western side and along the Georges River.
- The Minister for Planning and Public Spaces gazettes an improved State Environmental Planning Policy that requires upgraded protection of koalas in urban development areas, including wide corridors of 425m
- The (draft) Campbelltown Koala Management Plan is gazetted and the Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan put in place before any further development.
- The Gilead development cannot expand into Stage 2, nor can South-East Wilton expand into Allens Creek; and Koala movement corridors of 425m wide must be enforced.
- Effective Koala crossings on Appin Road linking to east-west corridors
- Biobanking and offsetting requirements are a last and least used measure and must significantly protect the ecosystems and species for which they have been created
- Regeneration of cleared lands as koala habitat, extending corridors along drainage lines
NSW Labor came out in strong support of the George River National Park being created as a matter of urgency earlier this month.
Several of the TEC's key points criticise developments planned at Mount Gilead (Lendlease) and Wilton (Walker Corporation) for not doing enough to protect koalas.
"Not only should large patches of remaining habitat be preserved, wildlife corridors are vital especially in an urban setting," the TEC report read.
"A prime example is the Gilead development, due to its position.
"Gilead sits at the crossroads of vital north-south and east-west links between and along the Georges and Nepean rivers. Lendlease's development will impede the retention of a resilient colony."
The report says the "connectivity" of Gilead land between the two rivers is "of regional, if not national significance".
"The adjacent nature reserve of Noorumba and the biobank site of Beulah are fragmented but rich patches of habitat,' the TEC says.
"Using Gilead to connect them and the Georges and Nepean Rivers is a game changer for biodiversity and connectivity.
"It also provides an impressive initial colonial landscape, buildings, and Indigenous heritage sites."
Lendlease told the Advertiser it was dedicated to ensuring appropriate koala protections in its Gilead development area.
"The koalas of Campbelltown have been, and will continue to be, the key consideration in our planning for Mount Gilead," a spokesman said.
"We are committed to our responsibility to provide adequate levels of amenity and infrastructure to benefit the community and the protect the local koala population."
The spokesman highlighted a number of plans which are of community benefit:
- Two underpasses along Appin Road
- Koala protection fencing along Appin Road and wildlife corridors to protect koalas against domestic pets
- Two glider poles across Appin Road
- Koala underpasses at Woodhouse Creek, Nepean Creek and Menangle Creek
- More than 200 hectares of protected koala habitat (an area larger than Sydney's Centennial Park)
- Thirty-six hectares gifted to the NSW Government to create the proposed Georges River National Park
- Funding for koala monitoring and research
- Community education and research
The spokesman said the public would be involved as the plans for the development progressed.
"We're committed to continue working with the community on the details of these safe passage corridors, structures, and management plans during the planning process to assist the growth of the koala population," he said.
The TEC also took aim at the housing development Walker Corporation has planned at Wilton South-East precinct.
The report claims Walker has not set aside sufficient land for koala habitat in the important Allen's Creek corridor.
"There are no offsets or biobanks being put aside for the koala habitat that Walker will exclude koalas from," the TEC says.
"They are also dramatically constricting the Allen's Creek Koala corridor that has been identified as a primary corridor."
The report says Walker's masterplan and Department of Planning and Environment's rezoning "makes a mockery" out of Biodiversity Planning Principles.
Walker Corporation's media and corporate relations manager Michael Cox said the TEC report didn't accurately reflect the development plans in place, and the work which had gone into safeguarding koalas.
He said the report included outdated graphics (page 17) which were not indicative of the latest plans.
"We believe the TEC's generalised statement on Wilton is not reflective of the amount of expert work that has been carried out in consultation with the government and its agencies," Mr Cox said.
"Walker has complied with the all the relevant regulations that are in place at the time of our application.
"The South East Wilton rezoning went through a rigorous environmental assessment process before it was approved by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.
"Under the state government's approved rezoning, all critical koala vegetation in South East Wilton will be protected behind koala fencing.
"There will also be additional protections put in place for the Allens Creek koala colony, which have been supported and recommended by highly regarded koala experts.
"This careful investment in additional protections will include improvements to culverts to facilitate koala movement along the corridor, clear signage of all habitat areas, information brochures for residents and permanent koala warning signs on Picton Road."
Mr Cox also highlighted the local koala pre-release facility Walker helped create in partnership with WIRES.
Read the full TEC plan here.