Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley has announced strict new conditions for a high profile quarry extension at Port Stephens that will establish a 74 hectare koala habitat corridor to support local populations.
Twenty-two hectares larger than the proposed 52 hectares of habitat to be cleared by the expansion itself, the corridor will establish high quality koala habitat across the wider site including Bushfire buffer zones, car and dog strike protection.
It is in addition to NSW conditions that require the proponent to fund habitat offsets of almost nine times the area of the project expansion.
“I recognise that the proposal has been subject to a high profile public campaign that has tapped into the genuine concerns we all share about koalas and bushfire impacted areas,” Minister Ley said.
“In respecting that concern, I have delayed this decision to ensure a thorough review of all previous reports and ensured the department commissioned and funded its own independent report from one of the nation’s most respected koala experts.
“The clear finding from the NSW Government and the Commonwealth Department is that Brandy Hill’s expansion, to be staged over the next 25 years, will not rob the area of critical koala habitat.
“The 74 hectare koala corridor can however play an important role in nurturing local populations and in delivering a net gain for local koalas by providing better quality habitat than is there at present.
The report commissioned by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment used on-site assessments to map the extent of the koala population and the ways in which they use that particular area of land.
It determined that as few as one or two koalas were present in the proposed construction area and that the construction could be managed without impacting the small pockets on the south western edge of the wider site where koalas have been sighted by residents.
NSW approval conditions include the establishment of tree buffer zones that will screen local residents before work in a new area can commence.
“It is critical that we closely examine all assessments in the light of bushfires and habitat loss, but also important that we make informed decisions,” Minister Ley said.
“This is not a region where bushfires have impacted local populations or habitat, the area to be cleared is not a site that is supporting resident breeding populations and, having reviewed the Department’s recommendations, I have approved the proposal.”