Environmental activist Chantal Parslow Redman believes “rocks won over koalas” after yesterday’s controversial approval of the Brandy Hill Quarry Expansion project.
Ms Redman, the group’s co-founder, said the decision was devastating.
“It’s a heartbreaking decision,” she said.
“It’s not at all what I expected, so we’re going to regroup and try to do whatever we can, given there has been so much interest in our campaign.”
Ms Redman added that she was concerned by the statement the minister made.
“The information they picked was wrong,” she said.
“The habitat was not burnt but that is a big reason why it should be protected.
“We don’t have the luxury of time to protect these koalas, it’s not a win, it’s an absolute loss.
“I’m just really concerned because we have had 300 sightings of koalas within 10 kilometres of the quarry – this habitat is important for the koala population.”
The group’s campaign garnered high levels of support, including some Australian celebrities like Olivia Newton-John, Celeste Barber, Colin Hay, and Magda Szubanski.
Minister Ley believes the expansion, which will be staged over the next 25 years, will not “rob the area of critical koala habitat”.
“I recognise that the proposal has been subject to a high-profile public campaign that has tapped into the genuine concerns we all share about koalas and bushfire impacted areas,” she said.
“In respecting that concern, I have delayed this decision to ensure a thorough review of all previous reports and ensured the department commissioned and funded its own independent report from one of the nation’s most respected koala experts.”
A report commissioned by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment determined that as few as one or two koalas were present in the area and that construction could be managed without impacting the small pockets on the south western edge of the wider site where koalas have been sighted by residents.
The approval comes despite the campaign and an expert report from University of Newcastle’s Dr Ryan Witt and Associate Professor John Clulow calling on the minister to block the project.
“At the end of the day, rocks won over koalas,” Ms Redman said.
“It’s devastating – if this campaign couldn’t win, what could?”