Fence-off the koala kill spots, environment groups say

Environmental groups have renewed calls for wildlife fencing along Heathcote Road and other protection measures after a motorist witnessed a koala being hit by a semi-trailer last week.

The harrowing incident was reported on the Sandy Point Residents' Community Facebook page.

"Driving out of the Point I just watched a koala that had become stranded by concrete trying to climb the side walls to get off the bridge turn around and be run down by a semi. Please watch out for wildlife," the post said.

Secretary of Georges River Environmental Alliance Sharyn Cullis said the area of Deadman's Bridge, Sandy Point on Heathcote Road continues to be a kill spot for koala.

"The RMS, councils and the Army, who owns most of the adjoining koala lands, need to get their act together," Ms Cullis said.

"Directional wildlife fencing could perhaps funnel the koalas to underneath the high bridge to avoid the road crossing above.

"Work can be done to make such wildlife road underpasses wildlife friendly, by decorating them with fauna 'furniture', like logs and plants."

In 2018, about six koalas were killed on Heathcote Road, prompting members of Georges River Environmental Alliance and Oatley Flora and Fauna Conservation Society to call for measures to be taken to protect a colony of koalas in the upper Georges River who move as far as the western fringe of Sutherland Shire.

They said the State Government including Roads and Maritime Services, the Army and Sutherland Shire and Liverpool councils all needed to take action.

Ms Cullis said nothing has happened since the issue was highlighted in 2018.

Ms Cullis said that the worst kill spot is Deadman's Creek. Other koala kill spots are New Illawarra Road at Barden Ridge and the Woronora River bridge.

The Sutherland Shire Environment Centre and a number of other local groups recently sent a report to Sutherland Shire and Wollongong Councils with recommendations for wildlife crossings and fencing at various spots along Heathcote Road and Cawley's Bridge near Garrawarra.

These included:

- the repurposing of Cawley's bridge at Garrawarra as a wildlife corridor over the F6 Freeway;

- modifying the underpass at the new bridge at Sandy Point to allow safe passage for koalas;

- installing koala friendly wildlife crossing and fencing at the new Lucas Heights Innovation Precinct, and around the Heathcote Bridge across Woronora River.

Koalas have been seen around the Sutherland Shire over the past few months at Sandy Point, Gymea, Engadine, and in the Royal National Park.

Sutherland Shire Environment Centre; National Parks Association Southern Sydney; Oatley Flora and Fauna Conservation Society; Georges River Environmental Alliance; Sandy Point Residents' Association; and Friends of the Royal National Park say the measures would be simple to implement and would protect koalas and other endangered animals along the region's wildlife corridors.

"A recent report from the NSW Government's Legislative Assembly found that koalas could become extinct in NSW by 2050 without urgent government intervention", said Tassia Kolesnikow, chair of the Sutherland Shire Environment Centre.

"Our recommendations for road works to make our region's wildlife corridors safer are straightforward and could be done under existing roads and maritime funding and work arrangements.

"We are asking our councils to take urgent action to protect our unique and endangered wildlife from becoming roadkill."

Sutherland Shire Environment Centre executive officer, Catherine Reynolds said the group has received positive feedback from councillors on the report and indications of support.

"Council is supportive but the wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly," Ms Reynolds said.

"You just have to wonder how many more koalas will be killed before the government takes action."

Ms Cullis added, "The problem is Sutherland Shire Council is just one of the agencies. The road is managed by the RMS and is on the side of Army reserve land.

"Recently we have spotted koalas at Woronora Heights and in the Royal National Park," she said.

"Genetically, the epicentre of the colony is Campbelltown and they are travelling to the Royal National Park. It is an epic journey."

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