Trees and rare birds hold up RTA plans

TWO giant trees and a flock of vulnerable birds could stand in the way of the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) plans to widen the Pacific Highway at Shark Creek.

For close to 125 years two small-leaved fig trees have stood beside the Clarence River, providing food and shelter to a list of vulnerable bird species, but the tree's days could soon be numbered.

The RTA has claimed the one kilometre section of highway is inadequate for its present and future use and until it was upgraded the reduced speed limit of 80kmh would remain.

After considering three options, the RTA has decided on the road widening option that would require both trees to be cut down.

Ecological consultant Dr Greg Clancy has made a submission to the RTA to save the trees, claiming they were one of the few remnants left of the forests of the Clarence Floodplain.

“It is doubtful that even 10 per cent of the original forest cover remains and therefore any remnants, including individual trees, provide essential habitat for the plants and animals of the area,” Dr Clancy said.

“The loss of one old fig is significant in ecological terms, particularly a small-leaved fig, as there are so few of them left on the floodplain.

“The RTA has one option which retains the trees and allows for the roads to be made safer so if they can do that then that's the best option.”

In his submission Dr Clancy also said the presence of four birds, listed as vulnerable by the Department of Environment and Conservation, had been ignored in the RTA's review of environmental factors.

Dr Clancy said the Wompoo fruit-dove, the superb fruit-dove, the rose-crowned fruit-dove and the barred cuckoo-shrike were all present in the local area and could reasonably be expected to feed on the small-leaved fig trees.

The RTA is calling for public feedback on its review of environmental factors for the highway upgrade this week. The environmental review can be seen at the RTA office in Grafton, the Council office in Maclean or the RTA website. Submissions are due by Friday.



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