People power fights for Lawrence koalas
THEY say it takes a village, but last Thursday night when 10-year-old Kayden Hope saw crosses on trees along Havelock St, it was his voice that sparked a community into action.
Kayden spread the word to local residents that the trees had been marked in an area near where power poles lay, and began to put posters up to let other residents know that there were koalas in the trees.
'We wouldn't have known unless we got told,” community member Linda Wright said.
"And even then it took until Monday to get any information about it.”
The work is part of a plan by Essential Energy to realign its 66,000 volt overhead power line to address clearance issues.
An Essential Energy spokesperson said that as an energy network distributor, Essential Energy had a responsibility to ensure we provide a safe, reliable and cost-effective network for their customers.
"Landowners have been consulted and the local council has been notified and raised no objections,” the spokesperson said.
"This is part of our normal operating procedure and is in line with our legislative obligations, including those under the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979.”
However the locals say they have not heard of any of the plans prior to Kayden's door-to-door announcement, and said that only now have they been put in contact with a community liaison officer.
The residents, many who say they have observed the koalas move through the habitat for more than 20 years, are concerned that even the destruction of a few trees in the corridor could have an impact on the local population.
And even at an impromptu roadside gathering on Wednesday, it wasn't hard to spot a few koalas sitting high in the trees just metres from some of the marked sites.
"We would like them to consider putting the line a different way. There is a different direction they can take it, but we haven't had an opportunity to put it to them yet,” Ms Wright said.
"The route they've chosen is just not suitable.”
The Essential Energy spokesperson said that an ecologist had undertaken an assessment on the surrounding flora and fauna, and identified the presence of koalas, and subsequently implemented the appropriate mitigation measures.
"As part of the realignment of the overhead power line, a vegetation contractor has marked various trees, some of which are Eucalypt, along a section of Havelock St at Lawrence,” the spokesperson said.
"Further consideration and assessment will now occur to determine the minimum number of trees that are to be removed or trimmed prior to construction commencing.
"The community can be assured Essential Energy is taking all necessary measures to reduce impact on the wildlife, including koalas during this important power line realignment project.”
Residents of Lawrence are urging people in the area to report all sightings to Clarence Valley Council's koala register at www.clarence conversations .com.au/ koalaregister.
For Ms Wright, she hopes that the more community put pressure on the issue, the more that Essential Energy might listen.
And in the meantime, even if his signs are ripped from the trees, Kayden is determined to keep up the fight - his poster saying it all:
How would you like it if you were the koala in the trees?