June 2009

Last night I went to a community meeting about the sealing of an existing road.

I wrote about this road in my Bulldozer of Process article and the process continues to fascinate me - if it were not so serious it would almost be funny.

The photo below is of a koala found sitting in a tree by the side of the road. The photo was taken last year by a long term resident of the area. She sent it in to us when the environmental consultants employed by Council found "no presence of koalas” in the vicinity of the upgrade.

Since then, another engineering company has been put in charge of allocating the placement of culverts or tunnels that will supposely allow wildlife to cross the road. Last night, a colleague of mine who is a road ecologist explained that he had been monitoring the wildlife that abounds in this part of the world. He made the point very strongly that the sealing of this road will have a very detrimental effect on the wildlife. One would have thought that he would have been involved in the siting of the animal crossings - but no, it had been done by engineers who looked at the topography of the site – which means it will be cheaper to build – rather than where the animals actually cross.

I did point out that all these people working together would have produced a better outcome.

It was also brought to my attention in the community newsletter that the State Government’s Environmental Protection Agency has been involved – which isn’t true – and when I raised this I was told the newsletter had been written in October last year and this comment hadn’t been removed. Hmmmmmm.

The Mayor involved in this project went on TV last week and said there were no koalas and they are going to build the most environmentally friendly road possible. I went on TV last week and showed the journalist this photo and said I wasn’t confident that any road is koala friendly. It is my strongest view that there is no such thing as a koala friendly road.

One of the consultants who didn’t find koalas was paid $98,000 meanwhile all the people sitting in the room – including me – have not been paid one cent for the continuous advice about road kills which would help to identify where culverts should be and other interesting data. Apparently it would be a conflict of interest to have the Australian Koala Foundation scientists rather than so-called independent environmental experts from engineering companies involved in a project of this nature. I will leave that for you to decide.

What has been astounding to watch in this whole process is how offended the “system” is to be constantly questioned about what they are doing. I wondered what would have happened if I and my community colleagues were not plugging away.

Although I appreciate that this road may need to be sealed, I wanted to watch and document not only the bulldozer of process that is happening, but also the inability of this group to co-ordinate resources for a better outcome. I am also hoping the Mayor will read this blog and realise that his comments cannot go unchallenged.

Although this seems like a small piece of the problem, I can assure you that this is happening in every corner of Australia and is the reason why the koala is facing extinction in many parts of the country.

Regards as always, Deborah