THE Pacific Highway upgrade from Woolgoolga to Ballina is a step closer after Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt gave the project his approval.
Mr Hunt's approval came with 26 strict conditions attached, and he also ordered more investigations into the impact on one particular section.
No work will start on a 13km section of the project near Ballina until its effects on the local koala population are analysed, including peer-reviewed population modelling of the marsupials.
"For the remaining sections of the upgrade, approval has been given with 26 strict conditions to minimise environmental impacts, including a range of mitigation measures on the proposed route which are critical to avoid impacts on koalas and other threatened species," Mr Hunt said.
NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay said: "This is yet another example of two grown-up governments delivering a vital piece of infrastructure for this state."
Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass said: "Over 50,000 people, mostly from within Australia, have expressed their concern that the Blackwall Range nationally significant koala population will be destroyed by the deviation away from the existing highway route."