Just days before the federal Environment Minister hands down her decision on the Brandy Hill Quarry expansion, a new report says the land is key koala habitat.
The study also found the assessment process relied on out-of-date data.
Full statement from Hanson:
Hanson welcomes the input from the Brandy Hill and Seaham Action Group to the understanding of koala use of the local area. Hanson has never stated that koalas are not present in the locality and the sightings that have been reported are consistent with the findings of the Biosis assessment. Measures taken by the NSW government to gazette new national parks aimed at conserving Koala habitat are welcomed as are the measures being developed by local Councils in NSW to guide koala management. However, this should not be done at the expense of efficient and responsible development.
· Hanson has always recognised that koala may be present and has not judged the quality of the habitat, other than to state that it is koala habitat.
· The Biosis assessment used recognised methods accepted by the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Division. The SAT surveys assessed 870 individual trees (survey points) for the presence and historic use by koala.
· Biosis has been conservative and assumed that all vegetation that contains koala feed trees is potential habitat. This is regardless of the outcomes of the SAT testing on population density or the condition of the vegetation.
· Should koala density have doubled every year since the surveys were undertaken (which would be difficult to achieve), the outcomes of assessment would not change. This is irrespective of the presence of females.
· Hanson are required to offset 1,342 Koala credits in addition to the ecosystem credits required for the development. This is estimated to equate to 450ha of land preserved in perpetuity.
· Management commitments would include progressive clearing, preventative measures during clearing and proactive containment within the Quarry Site including low speed limits, fencing and staff training.
· Hanson’s management of the Quarry will be subject to compliance reporting and independent auditing.
In addition, Hanson notes that the assessment completed on behalf of the Brandy Hill and Seaham Action Group identified some irregularities.
The report does not recognise that the area of the proposed quarry pit expansion is mapped as “Marginal” in the Port Stephens Koala Plan of Management and does not severe an east-west link.
· The Quarry is on the southern portion of remnant vegetation and does not sever any connective links, whether these are east-west or north-south.
· The report makes some broad assumptions about the outcomes of the Summer Bushfires. Port Stephens was spared from fires at this time and therefore the outcomes for the Koala remain unchanged.
Hanson questions the veracity of the assessment given the above and notes that this report does not change the outcomes of the assessment undertaken.
Hanson understands the importance of managing the site to ensure risks to koala are limited. The NSW consent provides strict conditions for the operation that, alongside the commitments made by Hanson, will provide the necessary restrictions to ensure the Quarry is developed and operated in an environmentally responsible manner.