Koala safety gets $5 million boost

KOALAS and cars just don’t mix … and the numerous casualties dealt with by the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital will attest to the devastating, and often fatal, consequences.

With local koala populations at critically low levels, a $5 million state government investment in wildlife fencing along our main roads is a welcome announcement.

The funding will cover the Department of Transport and Main Road’s (TMR) North Coast region, which stretches from Strathpine in the south to Pomona in the north, and west to Fernvale, Esk and Toogoolawah and surrounding areas.

As koalas become scarcer, they need to move further during their breeding season, so having well maintained fencing is important to keep them off the roads and away from cars.

The funding will support more regular inspections and maintenance of existing koala exclusion fencing in TMR’s North Coast region, with crews now funded to create a clear zone along koala exclusion fences and repair any holes that koalas or other wildlife might get through.

Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said that in some instances trees close to the fence may need to be removed to prevent koalas using them to climb over the fence and onto the road.

“To provide the clear zone, maintenance works will include clearing vegetation, trimming overhanging tree branches and spraying weeds growing on fences,” Mr Bailey said.

“TMR crews started removing vegetation encroaching on the koala exclusion fence on the Bruce Highway between Pine River and Caboolture back in May.

“This additional funding will allow them to inspect and repair fencing where needed across a wider area, with some sections requiring urgent attention already identified.”

You may have noticed that wildlife fencing has been constructed along all new roadwork areas as part of the Caloundra Road to Sunshine Coast Motorway highway upgrade.

If a koala (or possum) becomes trapped on the highway side of the fence, TMR has also installed poles for them to climb up and over the fence to safety.

To prevent animals climbing from the safe side to the roadway, metal shields have been wrapped around the poles.

Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said trials of these koala shields along the M1 motorway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast had been very successful.

She said the shields prevented the claws of koalas and other nocturnal wildlife from holding onto the poles.

“This trial delivered very promising results. Not a single koala was able to climb past the shields and, in a bonus result, a possum also tried and was unsuccessful,” Ms Scanlon said.

“It adds to a number of environmental initiatives as part of our roads investment on the Sunshine Coast, like new fauna underpasses as part of the Bruce Highway upgrade between Caloundra Road and the Sunshine Motorway.

“This work, and the work going forward to get these shields operational, will help koalas in southeast Queensland.”