Unless there is radical change to the NSW government’s plans for urban sprawl, it will have effectively launched an extinction exercise against the state’s one glowing light of Koala recovery, on the western edge of Sydney. 

The two critical measures that will give the colony a chance are the forthcoming Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan and a set of wide, protected corridors linking the Georges and Nepean Rivers. A lot has occurred in the past few months as the campaign has ramped up.

We and local conservationists won the argument with the Campbelltown Planning Panel, that any new DA must accommodate a Koala corridor in the north of the controversial Lendlease Gilead development, when the Panel imposed an additional 250 m corridor along Menangle Creek (condition 22A).  Campbelltown Council had already zoned it as residential, despite their own Koala Plan of Management. The decision has defined an important benchmark. 

Save Sydney's Koalas South West went to the Land and Environment Court, but unfortunately lost on a number of grounds.  It threw up an important issue that still needs to be adequately resolved about whether a development should meet the landscape Koala corridor protections that a Koala Plan of Management provides when the land has already been Biodiversity Certified by the state government - even though the main focus of biocertification is on compensation for lost habitat and is effectively blind to its fragmentation impacts. 

We made a major submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into the use of offsets, deploying Gilead as a prime example about how so-called compensation with habitat elsewhere (often not of the same type as the impacted area) does not help with species survival – especially in urban areas when so little remains.

On November 2, Campbelltown Council agreed to a rezoning planning proposal request from Lendlease and once again rejected the opportunity to secure the corridor.   However, Council did agree to increase the development density for Lendlease’s benefit.  This planning proposal has gone to the Minister for Planning for a final decision which opens a new opportunity for the campaign. 

We have now launched several actions to impress on the Minister that he can save the Gilead Koala Corridor.

Save Sydneys Koalas Campaign by Total Environment Centre

On November the 10th, we witnessed the welcome move in the Upper House of the NSW Parliament, which debated a Greens motion that the Government ensure that these Koala Corridors are secured and rezoned environment protection. The debate exposed the blocking action by TransportNSW with its intransigence on agreeing to underpasses on Appin Road to link critical habitat across the top of Gilead, without which the Planning Department and Lendlease argue makes the corridor not functional. The motion was passed by all except the Nationals and Liberals, with members including Fred Nile and Mark Latham voting with the Greens and Labor. It has become increasingly concerning that NSW Planning, TransportNSW and Lendlease are playing a ‘it’s not me, it’s them game’ with these Koala corridors, all the while doing nothing to secure them. 

The government’s response was summarised in their statement, ''The department has established a Technical Assurance Panel to bring together major landowners, State agencies and local councils to better plan for the Greater Macarthur Growth Area. As part of this work, the Government is seeking to secure the establishment of a network of koala corridors throughout the growth area. These corridors are partly within the area of the draft Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan and partly within the Gilead precinct of the Greater Macarthur Growth Area.''

But still no resolution after several years of studies and advice! Thus, the campaign continues at an ever-increasing intensity.

As the bulldozers move closer, the profile of Sydney’s Koalas has grown. After the loss of the court case, the story led the ABC NSW news bulletins. The issue is also going international on SkyNewsUK. And it will continue to grow, as while NSW Planning may not care for Koala survival as much as enriching Australia's wealthiest property developers, the rest of the world does care and the Save Sydney’s Koalas campaign grows in strength. 

Photo by Stefano Borghi via Unsplash

Connect with us: