A group of people, including some human koalas, are this morning visiting Barnaby Joyce’s office in Tamworth to protest the Shenhua Watermark coal mine which they say will result in the death of koalas, and removal of important habitat for them.
Gunnedah is known as the “Koala capital of the world” and the Pilliga and Gunnedah populations are key populations west of the Great Divide.
The company behind the mine has proposed that the koalas will be “encouraged to naturally move away from habitat that is being cleared” but that they will be forcibly translocated if they do not move. The Australian Koala Foundation has cited evidence from previous translocation projects where many koalas died, including one project where 80-100% of the translocated koalas died.
Ecologist David Paull is among the protesters and said, “We are talking about a national icon, here. All coal mines are much the same, but the koala is unique to Australia and uniquely part of the Liverpool Plains.
“There is no defendable plan yet devised for the translocation of the koalas for this project. Shenhua claim that they can compensate the removal of Koala habitat by establishing food tree plantings. These will not be ready for Koalas for at least ten years. What are the Koalas to do in that time?
Tamworth-based ecologist, Phil Spark, is also at the protest and said, “This poor animal has now been listed nationally as a vulnerable species. That should send shock waves around the country. It is frankly astounding that the New South Wales Government thinks one coal mine is more important than this nation’s most iconic wildlife species.”
Last week, Mr Joyce’s office was the site for protest by Liverpool Plains farmers asking him to ensure that the mine did not get Federal approval, and further protest by Gomeroi Traditional Owners and supporters took place in Gunnedah at the office of the company Shenhua over the cultural heritage impact of the mine.
Mr Spark said, “Barnaby Joyce is our member of parliament. We need him to stand up for this region. A decision by Federal Environment Minster Greg Hunt is now just two weeks away, so the clock is ticking for the koalas of the Liverpool Plains.”