The Brandy Hill Quarry Expansion Project has been given the green light.
Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley says strict new conditions have been attached to the high profile project in a bid to establish a 74-hectare koala habitat corridor to support local populations in Port Stephens.
Twenty-two hectares larger than the proposed area to be cleared by the expansion itself, the corridor will establish high quality koala habitat across the wider site, including bushfire buffer zones and car and dog strike protection.
This is in addition to conditions that require Hanson, the company behind the project, to fund habitat offsets of almost nine times the area of the project expansion.
The approval comes despite a high-profile community 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.
The Save Port Stephens Koalas group even made an effort to block the project today with the help of musician Colin Hay.
“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,” Minister Ley 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.
“The clear finding from the NSW Government and the Commonwealth Department is that Brandy Hill’s expansion, to be staged over the next 25 years, will not rob the area of critical koala habitat.”
The report commissioned by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment used on-site assessments to map the extent of the koala population and the ways in which they use that particular area of land.
It determined that as few as one or two koalas were present in the area and that the 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.
Minister Ley added that the koala population in the Port Stephens region was not dramatically affected by the bushfires.
“The area to be cleared is not a site that is supporting resident breeding populations and, having reviewed the Department’s recommendations, I have approved the proposal,” she said.