Highway realignment REF – inadequate for matters of national environment significance

Roads and Maritime Services have released the Princes Highway re-alignment Review of Environmental Factors for public comment. Perhaps for the more courageous there are 23 documents coming in at just under 180 Mb.

As indicated in the issues report ” . . . The community has raised concerns regarding two environmental issues that were not identified as issues by SKM in their biodiversity assessment, being the potential impacts of the proposal on Bell Minor (sic) Associated Dieback and Myrtle Rust. RMS has requested that SKM further investigate these issues and details will be provided in the REF when it is placed on display for public comment in mid 2013.” 

Given this statement it seemed reasonable to expect that there would be details of further investigations undertaken by Sinclair Knight Merz. 

Regrettably such an expectation was unreasonable because BMAD gets mentioned just twice with ” . . . There is also some potential for the proposal to exacerbate tree dieback associated with over-abundant psyllids and Bell Minor (Manorina melanophrys) birds along gullies and creek lines as a result of indirect impacts to these areas.”

This sentence is repeated elsewhere and followed with ” . . .However, where these are predictable, mitigation measures would be implemented to minimise their effect.” There is no apparent map of catchments in the REF but as indicated below the Blind creek catchment will cop most of the impacts and although SKM didn’t report it, this is where BMAD is well entrenched.


On the koala issue  they claim to have undertaken the “Spot Assessment Technique . . . resulting in searches at a total of 20 plots over 16 person hours.” This time frame represents 48 minutes per plot which is impossible.

They also suggest ” …Several larger Koala populations are also known from the wider Eden region which includes the current study area (Lunney et al 1997).” This claim is based on the “Community-based Survey of the Koala, Phascolarctos cinereus, in the Eden Region of South-eastern New South Wales“, a postal survey undertaken in 1991 that the loggers made the most of by saying koalas were everywhere and the authors believed it.

Thankfully koalas, along with a plant Square Raspwort (Haloragis exaltata subsp. exaltata) and a small area of what’s referred to as River-flat Eucalypt forest on Coast Floodplains, require consideration of clause 228(2) – factors and matters of national environmental significance.

For koalas it’s suggested that ” . . The proposal would remove 19.9 hectares of habitat that meets the criteria for habitat critical to the survival of Koalas in accordance with DSEWPaC (2012).” Unfortunately this estimate doesn’t include potential for the proposal to exacerbate tree dieback beyond the immediate area.


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