Pacific Highway rethink needed to preserve biodiversity and Aboriginal lands

A flawed environmental assessment of a Pacific Highway upgrade project puts already-threatened species at greater risk and could have an impact on protected Aboriginal lands, warns North Coast Greens MP Jan Barham.

“The proposed route for the highway upgrade between Broadwater and Coolgardie threatens the viability of two state and national vulnerable species and fragments Aboriginal protected lands, but there is a better alternative route available. I am calling on the Minister for Roads, Duncan Gay, to require a review of the proposal and its environmental assessment,” Ms Barham said.

Ms Barham noted that the construction and operation of the proposed route would likely fragment and isolate the region’s koala and long-nosed potoroo populations. Both species are listed as vulnerable on the NSW and Commonwealth threatened species registers.

Ms Barham also warned of the impact on protected Aboriginal land. “The Jali Local Aboriginal Land Council have a 1,000 hectare protected area that was primarily established because of its biodiversity value. The Land Council recently incorporated the long-nosed potoroo into its logo which signifies its cultural as well as its biodiversity value, and now that species, along with koalas and many other ecological communities and species could be placed at risk.”

“An alternative route is available that is 2.5 kilometres shorter, runs closer to the current alignment of the highway and poses a lower risk to biodiversity and protected lands, but the project’s assessment seems to have downplayed the problems with a route that had already been settled on.

“The ecological risk of the route being proposed by the Government has been identified by four experienced North Coast wildlife ecologists, and I urge the Minister to review the proposal in light of their concerns. A new, independent ecological assessment is required.

“The highway upgrades are a crucial issue to make travelling through the North Coast region safer, but it can be done while looking after our biodiversity and Aboriginal lands. I hope it won’t require another protracted debate to make the Government realise its plan for this section is inappropriate.”