A $1 million fence designed to protect endangered koalas in southwest Sydney from cars remains in disrepair, two months after the NSW government said it would fix it.
On February 16, Yahoo News Australia shared images showing barriers falling down along Picton Road, a busy thoroughfare that cuts through the state’s last remaining population of chlamydia-free koalas.
With the species predicted to disappear across the state before 2050, animal advocates had urged Transport for NSW to urgently repair the fence, something it promised to do. “Transport for NSW has recently identified defects in sections of fencing which will be repaired within the next two months, weather permitting,” it said.
More than two months on, images supplied by local residents show the fence is still falling apart, with materials needed for the repair understood to be in short supply. While a date to fix the problem has now been set, animal advocates say the delay has likely resulted in wildlife road deaths, and they want koala welfare treated as a priority.
Government urged to transform NSW into 'wildlife-friendly' state
In March, Yahoo News Australia reported koalas across Greater Sydney were on a “road to extinction” with vehicle strikes have doubling in nearby suburbs over the last generation.
Prior to its election, NSW Labor has promised to build a Great Koala National Park to help protect the species in the state's north.
But in the southwest, local rescuers fear for the future of koalas as large housing developments like Lendlease's Fig Tree Hill encroach on habitat. In other parts of the state, logging continues to destroy forests that survived the Black Summer bushfires.
Animal Justice Party parliamentarian Emma Hurst said the slow response to fixing the fence was “just not good enough”, questioning how many animals have died while it was "in a shambles”.
“The previous Government were known as the ‘koala-killers’. Now with the Labor Government at the helm, we can only hope they take swift action to rescue this species and ensure NSW is the wildlife-friendly state that the community wants to see,” she said.
Ms Hurst said the failure to quickly fix the fence highlights issues inherent in "old technologies" and that a new strategy that includes virtual fence trials and wildlife crossings was needed.
Promised to begin repairs to koala fence next week
The office of NSW Labor’s new roads minister John Graham was contacted for comment but it did not provide comment prior to deadline. Transport for NSW told Yahoo News Australia it now planned to carry out repairs from next week until the end of April.
“Additional work will be carried out in May when scheduled night closures will be in place to allow crews to safely repair sections of the fence that are close to the road,” it added.
Local man Keith Edwards said the lack of action makes it hard for him to take the state’s “comments and undertaking seriously in light of what has transpired”. He argues the fences were not properly constructed and have not been properly maintained.
While Transport for NSW blamed fallen trees and vehicle collisions for the state of the fence, after inspecting it up close he blamed “poor workmanship or failure of materials”.
Mr Edwards also highlighted that vegetation continues to grow either side of the fence, allowing koalas to climb over it. Clearing it does not require specialised tools or machinery.
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