Tallowah Cullen age 7 of Tyalgum at the Koala march. Photo: John Gass / Tweed Daily News
Tallowah Cullen age 7 of Tyalgum at the Koala march. Photo: John Gass / Tweed Daily News John Gass

Councillors heckled over koala gate

TWEED Shire Councillors who voted for a koala grid to replace the gate on the Pottsville sportsfield on Thursday night were heckled in and outside the council chamber.

Cr Barry Longland's revised motion concerning Black Rocks Sportsfield got up with the majority backing of conservative councillors Warren Polglase, Phil Youngblutt and Carolyn Byrne.

Despite being warned to remain quiet by Mayor Gary Bagnall on several occasions during the meeting, after the 4-3 vote koala campaigners in the public gallery shouted "resign" and "disgrace" at Cr Longland.

As they walked outside the meeting, koala campaigners also yelled "disgrace" and "shame" at Crs Polglase and Byrne.

It came after a lengthy debate during which attempts by the other three councillors - Katie Milne, Michael Armstrong and Mayor Gary Bagnall - to defer a decision were voted down.

They argued that they knew nothing about koala grids and it was imperative they found out more before voting to introduce one. 

Cr Milne asked Cr Longland to encourage the 50 local residents who he said had complained about the gate to contact the council as she was not aware that there were that many people opposed to it. 

Cr Longland said he had been subjected to an unprecented level of vitriol since word got out about his original notice of motion calling for the gate to be removed.

"I've been vilified and accused of all sorts of nasty behaviour," he said.

He said the koala grid had been suggested by local koala ecologist Dr Steve Phillips during a recent meeting, who assured him they were being used successfully elsewhere.

Cr Longland's successful motion also calls for the commissioning of a study using the methodology contained in the currently exhibited comprehensive koala Plan of management to obtain baseline data on koala numbers at Black Rocks.

He said the gate would not be removed until the koala grid was in place. 

It came after a week in which a protest was staged against Cr Longland by koala campaigners on Monday through the streets of Murwillumbah and another smaller protest was held at the entrance to the council carpark on Thursday night.

During public access at the start of the meeting, three koala campaigners including Jenny Hayes and Tony Thompson from Team Koala and Scott Sledge from Northern Rivers Guardians, argued for the gate to be retained.

"Why isn't this councillor (Longland) listening to the advice of his own staff? Does he think he has more knowledge and understanding?" Ms Hayes said addressing the council. 

Ironically, Cr Longland was not present during most of the meeting which started at 4pm, arriving at 6.10pm after flying back from Tasmania. 

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