Residents of Hill Top in the state’s Southern Highlands say they have evidence of koala habitation at the site of a proposed shooting complex.
This is despite a State Government report which concludes the presence of koalas is unlikely, giving the development the green light.
Hill Top Residents’ Action Group (HTRAG) spokesperson Julie Cook said, “The site itself is possibly the worst possible site that could ever have been picked.”
Wingecarribee Shire Council wrote to the State Government before the April 29 council meeting stating its continued opposition to the approved development.
Councillor Jim Clark moved the motion on behalf of council.
“Given that they’ve clear-felled an area for a new shooting range, you couldn’t say that [the government has] adequately dealt with flora and fauna issues,” Cr Clark said.
He said he was aware of the possibility that koalas lived at the site.
“I’m certain they’ve got the right species of tree for koalas, yes,” he said.
The government’s report, written by consulting firm GHD, states that “no koala scratches or scats were observed at any of the surveyed trees … and no koalas were observed.”
However, a review undertaken by ecological consultancy Ambecol for the HTRAG suggests otherwise.
“The GHD Fauna Assessment is grossly inadequate,” it begins.
“Key data for the [koala habitat assessment] are not present in the report … no reasonable person would approve the development application.”
Ms Cook provided a photo of a koala which was found in a Hill Top backyard.
“There’s just no way koalas don’t traverse through; its a natural wildlife corridor and part of a linkage area and now it’s been cleared,” she said.
University of Western Sydney koala expert Associate Professor Robert Close examined the site for an objection lodged by the HTRAG.
“We found faecal pellets so a koala must have been there, whether as a resident or disperser we don’t know,” he said in an email.
Users of the proposed Southern Highlands Shooting Complex, which will expand the current single range into five separate ranges, are reluctant to comment publicly.
Dal Birrell, a spokesperson for the Illawarra Regional Shooting Association, said he was “not at liberty” to discuss the expansion.
However, in a club newsletter he wrote that “anti-range agitators are twisting the facts … to further their negative cause.”
Ms Cook believes other ecological factors also present a threat.
“Contamination from the shooting activities will occur across the site and basically be washed down the gullies and water courses in the vicinity,” she said.
The HTRAG is concerned that lime, raked into the surface of the 500-metre range to help break down pollutants from spent ammunition, could wash into local waterways.
Development will almost certainly proceed.
“We are only months away from being able to shoot in comfort on a modern range with all the facilities,” said Mr Birrell.
The Department of Sport and Recreation declined to comment on the allegations, as did the Minister, Graham Annesley MP.
Koalas were added to the national threatened species list on 30 April.
This article was originally written in May 2012 for a university assignment.
This post was made on 13 May 2012.