Kings Forest plan for koalas approved - with conditions
A CONTROVERSIAL koala plan for the Kings Forest estate has been approved with conditions by the NSW Independent Planning Commission.
It's a big win for koala activists, who say they have won "everything they were fighting for" after a nine-year battle with developer Leda Holdings, owned by Gold Coast billionaire Bob Ell.
During an IPC meeting at Kingscliff in March, animal activists turned out in force to protest against the fourth proposed modification to the koala plan of management.
More than 20 activists spoke out again the proposed changes, with most concerned about three modifications - fencing around a golf course, a lack of koala underpasses and securing 27h of koala food trees.
During the meeting, Team Koala president Jenny Hayes told the IPC committee a modification request by the developer to place a fence around a golf course and remove a wildlife corridor was "suicidal" for the Tweed Coast koalas, which needed the area as a buffer zone to move from one place to another.
Ms Hayes said 27ha of koala food trees needed to be planted before construction began, calling it "absolutely vital".
Leda Holdings had proposed using a financial offset to avoid planting the trees due to a lack of space.
But in a determination handed down by the IPC, it approved the plan with conditions, concluding "the current obligation to physically plant out 27ha of koala food trees should be maintained" and "planting needs to occur prior to construction".
The report also stated "the golf course should function as an ecological buffer and the fencing should separate the golf course".
The determination ruled an "adaptive management approach" must be used when building underpasses to "ensure koala connectivity at all times".
Team Koala president Jenny Hayes told the Tweed Daily News the approved plan was a powerful showing of what a community could do when it banded together.
"We've got everything we wanted and I want to thank everyone for their support, including Team Koala members, the Independent Planning Commission for making a good decision and the NSW State Government for seeing what was right and just," she said.
"The real victory here is for the Tweed Coast koalas and the people of the Tweed, a huge diversity of people have shown how the Tweed community can come together and get the best possible outcome."
Mrs Hayes said showings of support by non-animal activists such as the Surfrider Foundation Australia, local church groups and ratepayer associations, among others, was "heart-warming" and played a massive role in the outcome.
"The really special thing about it is all the newcomers that want to help, it's not just the old-timers, it's people who have just arrived and said you've got Tweed Coast koalas on the brink of extinction, what can we do to help?" she said.
"We've really got something special here."
Developer Leda Holdings was contacted for comment.