Ask council to build a bridge

By Kirra Livingstone

A PUSH to force authorities to construct a wildlife bridge in Ferny Forest to mitigate the loss of seven hectares of habitat to build a water pipeline to Aura is gathering steam.

Following the success of the Save Ferny Forest campaign, advocates say a plan to construct a 10km pipeline from Ewan Maddock Dam to Aura could derail their attempts to create a safe ecological habitat for native animals including koalas.

Unitywater is understood to have compensated government bodies, such as the Sunshine Coast Council, as financial mitigation of their impact on Ferny Forest.

Unitywater confirmed the delivery of the offsets to the Council as part of previous agreements to go ahead with their Aura pipeline works.

“As part of our approvals for the Aura water pipeline, Unitywater will contribute to offsets that will be delivered by Sunshine Coast Council,” Unitywater said.

“The offset adds to Unitywater’s broader contribution to the environment and the community within its service region.

“The offset is part of the pipeline’s design approvals under the Sunshine Coast Council Biodiversity Waterway and Wetland Overland Code for 1.31 hectares of land.”

Now the Save-Protect-Connect community action group (formerly the Save Ferny Forest group) says the council should use the money to finance a wildlife bridge.

“There are seven wildlife bridges across Australia, three of which are in Queensland, and our proposed plan for a wildlife bridge will reconnect Ferny Forest with Brannocks Ecological Reserve and Mooloolah River National Park,” Action group spokesperson Linda Delaboult said.

“Unitywater has told us they have paid offsets to the Department of Environment and Science, and is paying a wetland and biodiversity levy to Sunshine Coast Council a significant amount of money, so what’s the Council going to do with that money?”

A Sunshine Coast Council spokesperson says although they support a wildlife bridge being built to connect the three locations, the offsets paid to the Council cannot be used to fund it.

“The offset funds are unable to be used for this purpose as the Environmental Offsets Act 2014 states that an environmental offset needs to replace the environmental matters impacted by the water pipeline project,” the Council spokesperson said.

“Early planning is underway to ensure council delivers on this commitment, including identifying a suitable location for offset receival.”

A wildlife bridge would allow animals to safely travel to and from the proposed reconnected locations and allow wildlife to repopulate to avoid extinction.

The proposal would also be vital in protecting the Koala population on the Sunshine Coast; however Linda says they are already seeing the slow extinction of the species.

“Throughout our Save Ferny Forest protests people continued to ask where are all the Koalas?,” she said.

“We think because other core Koala habitats such as the Mooloolah River National Park are so fragmented from each other, this is causing a slow extinction for the Koala population on the Sunshine Coast.

If the Council approve and fund the building of a wildlife bridge, it is expected to cost anywhere from $1.3 million – $5 million.

In December the State Government backed down on plans to harvest up to 50 per cent of Ferny Forest for hardwood, ahead of its national park listing in 2024.