Dr Steve Phillips.
Dr Steve Phillips. Contributed

Shed backflip a decision community might rue

A LEADING koala expert has described a looming Tweed council decision to approve the Pottsville and District Men's Shed at Black Rocks as "disappointing” and warns the community might one day rue the "grandstanding” move.

Dr Steve Phillips, a Uki- based ecological consultant who made submissions to the council on the issue, said he had never opposed a Men's Shed and only wanted the koalas to be given space and time to recover.

"I've lived in this community for a long time,” he said. "And I'm sure if you asked the Tweed community if they wanted koalas to be here in the future for their children, they'd all say yes, and if that's community expectation, and you look at these isolated occurrences, all of a sudden we're saying, 'so, we don't want this to happen?'.

"I've done all I can do: I've written reports for council, I've provided alternative arguments, I've supported alternative sites, I've provided advice to the legal fraternity, and that's all I can do. I'm out of options.”

One report Dr Phillips wrote in February 2016 to the Environmental Defenders Office pointed to a NSW Science Committee preliminary decision to list Tweed koalas east of the Pacific Highway as an endangered population.

He claimed the council should have acknowledged this and a likely similar final decision in its flora and fauna assessment report, meaning precautionary approaches would have been needed for any works that could potentially harm Pottsville koalas.

Dr Phillips said that cell of koalas was the southernmost in the Tweed and half its population was wiped out in a 2014 fire.

He believed the Pottsville wetlands koala population was in grave danger, with numbers counting into the 30s at most, the majority of which inhabited the area near Black Rocks oval following the fire.

He said recent research identified noise as not only driving koalas from their homes but causing stress, which leads to diseases and other health problems.

His comments follow Labor Cr Reece Byrnes' backflip, declaring his support last week for the Black Rocks site, swaying the vote in favour of granting the Men's Shed a five-year temporary licence on site.

The matter is not due to come before the council until March 16 but those opposed are beginning to fear the fight is already over.

"I can understand the politics,” Dr Phillips said.

"But unfortunately for young Reece (Byrnes), I don't think he's fixed this and I just hope he doesn't live to regret it.”

Dr Philips said construction of the new shed and ongoing power tool noise would cause koala populations the most harm.

Meanwhile, Pottsville residents plan to march in support of the Men's Shed at Black Rocks on Sunday, February 26.

Clarification: In our report on the Men's Shed on February 4, we stated the Threatened Species Conservation Society had considered taking the issue to the Supreme Court. This is incorrect, rather individual members of the PDMS, including TSCS president David Norris, have considered legal action but decided against it.