Anger as koala trees cleared to make way for Birkdale townhouses. Redland City Council defends protection measures. – RCB

By May 20, 2020 August 30th, 2020 Archive
  • MAY 20 2020 – 11:30AM Stacey Whitlock

CLEARING: Nola Sprake said Redland City Council had disregarded koalas when clearing the site. Photo: Nola Sprake

A RESIDENT has fears for Birkdale koalas after trees were cleared for a council townhouse development.

In 2018, Redlands Investment Corporation, a subsidiary of Redland City Council, applied to build 13 townhouses over about one fifth of a 20,209 square metre Old Cleveland Road East site.

The development was approved in May 2019.

Nola Sprake, a Redlands resident and member of various wildlife conservation groups, said she had concerns for the area’s koala population after land clearing works began.

“Despite the obvious presence of koalas in the area … no effort has been made to protect the trees or save koala habitat,” she said.

“The loss of habitat is significant to koalas as they now have to negotiate not just a road but a massive development before they reach safety.

“We don’t deserve to have (koalas) here in the Redlands, and soon we won’t.”

A Redland City Council spokesman said up to 3559 square metres of the 20,209 square metre site had been cleared. Some of this area was was taken up by several abandoned houses.

The remaining 16,650 square metres of undeveloped land was set to be rehabilitated, including removing declared pests and weeds and planting trees to provide improved koala habitat.

RIC also planned to plant 680 trees at nearby Collingwood Drive.

Ms Sprake said it was absurd to rehabilitate the site as it was now so irreparably damaged that it was unrecognisable.

She expressed concerns about the level of consultation with environmental and wildlife groups.

Koala Action Group president Debbie Pointing said the group had been approached for feedback before development had begun.

“We were obviously not happy that there was going to be koala trees removed but we were aware of it,” she said.

The group asked that RIC use koala detection dogs leading up to tree clearing and use fencing that would allow koalas to travel through the site.

“The day that I met RIC on site, I found a koala right up the back of the property, and that’s when I said to them we would have liked the koala sniffer dogs, which unfortunately didn’t happen,” Ms Pointing said.

The council spokesman said dogs were not used but fauna spotters inspected the site three times before clearing and were present for all clearing works.

“Other wildlife was captured and released to the conservation area, but no koalas were sighted.

He said koala-friendly site fencing was being considered.

KOALA WARNING: A koala crossing sign near the development site. Ms Pointing said koalas had been known to traverse the area. Photo: Nola Sprake

Ms Pointing said koalas were known to move across the site and in the surrounding areas, like Judy Holt Park.

“Our point was that koalas still need to be able to move through that site like they have been doing for many years,” she said.

“We would assume the new residents would not be allowed to have large dogs, living in a townhouse situation. ”

She said council could expect community concern whenever koala trees were cleared.

“There was always going to be backlash when koala food trees were being removed in an environment where they’ve already lost so much other habitat,” she said.

“From our perspective we were happy with the way (RIC) consulted us but we would have liked to have been more involved and (for them to) do more monitoring of koala populations leading up to the development.”

The development is set to be completed in mid-2021.