• North Coast Environment Council

    Formed in 1976, we are the peak umbrella environment group in northern NSW. We cover the area from the Hunter to the Tweed and west to the New England Highway. We also actively support other campaigns further afield. We receive no government funding and have no paid staff or central office. Our members and office-bearers work around the region, often travelling large distances to assist others as we organise in our defence of the environment and the communities it sustains. We rely on donations and the efforts of our members and volunteers, to remain effective. If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to assist us with our work, we guarantee plenty of bang for your buck. Post us a message to this site and we will get back to you.
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It seems the NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS,) has plenty of space for motorists to roam the network of toll roads around Sydney using the latest 30 day eMu passes. However, now that the RMS has shelved plans to build a dedicated overpass across the proposed Pacific Highway upgrade east of Grafton, the real Emu will have to be content with narrow 4m high concrete underpasses.

The currently exhibited Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) identifies the underpasses as mostly concrete drainage structures, and an overpass will only be built if the Emus fail to use these culverts.

Official National Parks and Wildlife counts show there are now less than 100 Coastal Emus surviving in the Clarence Valley, and they constitute the only population of any size remaining on the east coast of New South Wales.

“Under the proposed upgrade, the Emu’s traditional movement corridors will be severed by 50kms of fenced motorway, which will force the birds to travel up to 15km to find any sort of crossing point”, said John Edwards a spokesperson for the North Coast Environment Council (NCEC). “At the same time, while there is evidence that some small animals will use those drainage structures, the RMS has provided no evidence that the Emus will cope with any type of underpass”, he said.

The EIS identifies only one dedicated concrete Emu underpass of the 40m wide motorway, with some half dozen bridges and a number of box culverts assigned the dual purpose of dealing with flood waters, and allowing Emus to pass beneath them.

The NCEC points out that there is no certainty that all these underpasses will actually eventuate. “The RMS has a track record of changing its plans” said Mr Edwards. “For example, the 1999 EIS for the Karuah to Bulahdelah section, showed one fauna overpass and 9 underpasses, but ultimately only 6 underpasses and 2 overhead rope crossings were constructed, with no overpasses at all. In fact there are only three fauna overpasses on the entire Pacific Highway between Sydney and Brisbane, one at Bonville and others at Yelgun and Chindera. This is totally inadequate”, he said.

The proposed motorway will effectively split the Clarence Valley Coastal Emu population in two, making it harder for either to survive, and it now seems a large area of known foraging grounds near Shark Creek will be fenced off entirely, further reducing the population’s range.

“Any claims in the EIS of “ecological sustainability” and “no significant environmental impact” are a complete nonsense”. The RMS needs to present a proposal that includes wildlife overpasses, to ensure landscape connectivity is built into highway infrastructure”, Mr Edwards said.

While it is easy to obtain a 30 day pass that suits motorists during the holiday period, the RMS needs to consider easier EMU passes that will work to ensure the survival of the endangered Coastal Emu population.


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