A SERIES of tools are being released by Roads and Maritime Services to enable the community to better understand the level of environmental investigation being carried as part of the Woolgoolga and Ballina Pacific Hwy upgrade.
The project was approved by NSW Planning Minister Pru Goward and Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt, and included strict conditions about managing the project's impact on the environment.
Pacific Hwy general manager Bob Higgins said RMS places great importance on transparency and as such is releasing environmental information gathered in preparation for the project to the public.
"From today an interactive mapping tool is available online, showing vegetation, habitat and species data we have collected during development of the project," Mr Higgins said.
"As the mapping tool is live, the content will change as data collection and surveys are completed and uploaded.
"The innovative tool has been developed by the project team to help in the delivery of the Woolgoolga to Ballina project."
Detail in the mapping tool includes location data on threatened species such as koalas and potoroo. In order to protect sensitive ecological communities, data is shown as indicative locations only.
Mr Higgins said RMS had been aware of a potoroo population west of Wardell for a decade.
"Roads and Maritime has been aware of the potoroo population at Wardell since 2004/5 when the now approved route for the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Hwy upgrade was being investigated," Mr Higgins said.
"Furthermore, to meet approval conditions Roads and Maritime engaged Lewis Ecological to carry out a detailed study of the potoroo. The 'Long-nosed Potoroo Site Survey and Selection Study' is now available on the Roads and Maritime website.
"Field surveys were carried out at 38 sites along the Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade to inform the report. Historical data and local knowledge from the community was also used.
"Potoroo were recorded at 15 sites including Wardell, Tabbimobile and New Italy.
"The field surveys resulted in the discovery of new populations Roads and Maritime will now be able to manage.
"Seven recommendations were made by the report to improve potoroo management which will form part of the overall Threatened Mammal Management Plan and biodiversity mitigation framework for the project."
Mr Higgins said Roads and Maritime has also released video of the potoroo recorded during the site surveys.
"The footage shows three potoroo at a location where the existing Pacific Hwy doesn't have any structures to help the potoroo safely cross the highway," Mr Higgins said.
"As part of the Pacific Highway upgrade, a land bridge is proposed in that location that will not only maintain but actually improve potoroo habitat connectivity."
Mr Higgins said Roads and Maritime would be releasing more data on threatened species as study results became available.
"We are committed to keeping the community informed about the Woolgoolga to Ballina Pacific Hwy upgrade. Every effort will be made to ensure management of threatened species is transparent."
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