Kings Forest developers to spend $6 million on koalas
THE developer behind the mega Kings Forest estate has for the first time released its final Koala Plan of Management for the new suburb, hitting out at critics over a "barrage of misinformation” surrounding their plan.
Kings Forest is one of three alternative sites short-listed for the Tweed Valley Hospital and the site of a proposed 4500-home residential development.
Last June, developer Leda Holdings put forward a revised Koala Plan of Management for the estate but it was slammed by environmental activists who claimed it had led to a reduction in koala habitat, wildlife corridors, primary food trees and restricted koala movement.
The plan resulted in a protest campaign by Team Koala, including a rally through the streets of Kingscliff and a petition with more than 2000 submissions.
At the time, Team Koala criticised Leda for "breaking all of the promises” it had made to protect koalas.
But a Leda Holdings spokesperson told the Tweed Daily News it appeared Team Koala had not read the full document.
"Over the past six months and more, the Kings Forest development has been subjected to a barrage of misinformation, primarily from Team Koala,” the spokesman said.
"Despite numerous requests from the media for our side of the koala story, we have waited until we finalised our Koala Management Plan. Now this has been printed and will be on public view.”
In a briefing paper obtained by the Tweed Daily News, a condition of approval for the Kings Forest project required Leda to retain 54.88ha of koala habitat.
Leda Holdings says it plans to provide 61ha of koala habitat on site and a further 27ha off site, a total of 88ha.
The paper also said Leda would be removing 18 primary koala food trees - but replacing them with 10,279 more.
"(A total of) 570 for every one removed,” the paper stated.
Leda said it had "never proposed to remove fencing and underpasses” and planned to install both to protect koalas from roads and residential areas.
The developer said it anticipated an investment of $6million into koala infrastructure at Kings Forest, with annual maintenance costs "of approximately $800,000”.
The spokesperson said Leda had already spent "hundreds of thousands of dollars” on the Koala Plan of Management and visited Canberra up to 20 times to discuss it with various government bodies.
He said the only reason they had not planted any koala food trees yet was they were waiting for approval of the revised plan.
Dr Steve Philips, who has studied the koala population at Kings Forest since the 1980s and published the findings which recognised the Tweed Coast koala population as endangered, said a hospital on the proposed Kings Forest site could "potentially be beneficial”.
"It doesn't make a difference if there is a hospital there or not,” he said.
"If you look at the site, it doesn't have a tree on there so the loss of habitat is negligible.
"The first thing I did was look at the potential loss of habitat, and when I realised there wouldn't be any, I thought you could actually put habitat back in there.”
Team Koala declined to comment when approached by the Tweed Daily News.
The Koala Plan of Management is due to be published on the Department of Planning website in coming days.