Hwy construction to put koalas at risk: ecologist

LEADING Australian koala expert and ecologist Steve Phillips has spoken out about the impact on koala habitat from construction of the Pacific Hwy between Woolgoolga and Ballina.

After reviewing environmental impact reports, Mr Phillips said RMS had underestimated the numbers of koalas that will be displaced by the road construction process.

He claimed RMS was failing to acknowledge more than 50 per cent of food trees currently being used by resident koala populations along the route.

"With the local koala populations already in decline, ploughing a highway through the middle of known koala habit would fast-track the population's rate of extinction," he told Newscorp.

"If you are dealing with an already declining population, building a road smack bang through the middle of them will mean many of those animals will die."

The concerns come as the RMS' koala plans are being considered by the Department of the Environment.

The plan includes a Population Viability Analysis for a 50-year time frame that been carried out to demonstrate "the long-term viability of the koala population, taking into account the impacts resulting from the road upgrade."

Mr Phillips' said his main area of concern was a protected habitat in Ballina where he claims 20 koalas will be directly impacted by construction works.

To view RMS' environmental impact reports visit www.rms. nsw.gov.au.

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