Habitat offsets nearer

COMPENSATORY habitat offsets for Sapphire to Woolgoolga are being finalised.

A spokesman for NSW Minister for Lands Tony Kelly said the RTA was working to finalise the offsets required for the Sapphire to Woolgoolga Pacific Highway upgrade, in consultation with the Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water.

“Once finalised, the package would need to be approved by the Department of Planning,” the spokesman said. “Where purchase of land is proposed, it is expected that the offsets will be acquired at market value from the land- owner.”

The highway upgrade was approved in January 2009 by the then Minister for Planning Kristina Keneally, subject to conditions. Coffs Harbour City Council and local residents are hoping land at South Moonee Forest, Hearnes Lake and North Emerald Beach is considered for acquisition.

One of the conditions of approval set by Ms Keneally was that the project prevent, minimise and/or offset adverse environmental impacts.

Planning documents for the Sapphire-Woolgoolga upgrade estimate about 83ha of vegetation will be lost to roadworks, 18ha of that from endangered ecological communities. In the adjacent Woolgoolga to Wells Crossing upgrade, the estimate is 207ha loss, including 33ha of EECs.

The documents note the final areas lost may be less, but the cumulative impact of the Pacific Highway upgrade on the whole of the North Coast Bio region will be greater than the sum of loss in individual projects.

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