Rare flora and fauna threatened by highway upgrade
WITH preparation continuing for the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade, threats to the Clarence Valley's wildlife have been placed back in the spotlight.
Clarence Environment Centre secretary John Edwards said that while the current environmental focus was on a section of highway near Ballina with the potential to affect the native koala population, other endangered flora and fauna was at stake in the Clarence Valley too.
Threatened species identified in a Roads and Maritime Services Biodiversity Assessment prior to the route being chosen include the oxelyan pygmy perch, giant barred frog, spotted tail quoll, grey-headed flying fox, regent honeyeater, long-nosed potoroo, and koalas.
Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt last year put 26 conditions on the 155km highway upgrade, including strict conditions to protect the pygmy perch and the giant barred frog.
But Mr Edwards believes other endangered species in the Clarence Valley, whose habitats are also in the path of the new highway, haven't been given enough consideration.
On expeditions to an old growth forest just south of Tyndale, the Clarence Environment Centre has found a giant petaltail dragonfly, which according to RMS-funded assessments was thought to have been eliminated from the region due to degradation of wetland habitats, and an undescribed beard orchid, which Mr Edwards said likely occurred nowhere else in the world.
Other flowering plants including the endangered grevillea quadricauda and quassia Moonee Creek series have been found.
"This is all in a tiny little piece of forest," he said.
"While all attention is on Ballina's koalas and potoroos, the Clarence Valley is absolutely as vital to wildlife, and the damage they're going to do in the Clarence Valley is just unbelievable."
Endangered coastal emu and giant barred frog populations have also been highlighted as being under threat.
"One of the RMS's claims as part of their policy is to minimise impacts wherever possible, they could do that by moving about 500 metres to the west, where there's clear land," Mr Edwards said.
"But once they settled on that route they have never changed any of the alignment to try and protect certain species that they have identified as being there.
A Roads and Maritime spokeswoman said as part of the NSW and Australian government approval for the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade, Roads and Maritime Services must meet strict conditions to manage threatened species, including the oxleyan pygmy perch and coastal emu.
"The EIS and associated Biodiversity Assessment addresses careful management of species including orchids, the coastal petaltail, grevillea, screw fern, squirrel gliders and yellow belly gliders, coastal emu and oxleyan pygmy perch," she said.
"The EIS informed the final highway alignment, which was specifically designed to minimise impacts to these species.
"After further consultation additional improvements were made to the preferred route to reduce land clearing, increase the number of native animal crossing points and prepare a threatened species management plan."