Major company loses $11 million over koala concerns

Australian Ethical has sold its shares in Lendlease over concerns about a planned housing development.

Australian Ethical divestment Lendlease over koalas
Australian Ethical has divested from Lendlease over a planned development, which it says could threaten koala colonies. (Source: Getty)

Australian Ethical has offloaded its $11 million stake in Lendlease over its planned housing development in south-western Sydney, which it says poses a threat to the local koala population.

The super fund, which has $8.68 billion of funds under management, said the Mt Gilead development could threaten the survival of one of the last remaining healthy koala colonies in New South Wales.

Australian Ethical accused Lendlease and NSW Planning of failing to give “meaningful information” about planned koala corridors, which were needed to provide koalas safe passage across the site.

“For over four years we have used our shareholdings in Lendlease to encourage it to strengthen koala protections, but Australian Ethical cannot continue to support a company that appears to be failing to take biodiversity protection seriously,” Australian Ethical spokesperson Amanda Richman said.

“We’ve been clear that Australian Ethical would continue to advocate until we have exhausted all avenues with Lendlease to improve koala protections, and we’ve now reached that point.”

The NSW government’s environmental protection body, the Environment and Heritage Group, has also raised concerns over the development, which will see 3,300 new homes built.

In a submission made in December to NSW Planning, it said there was “insufficient information” provided around biodiversity and the proposal was “inconsistent” with the chief scientist’s advice and recommendations.

Lendlease hit back at Australian Ethical, saying its plans “fully adhere to the independent and expert recommendations of the NSW Chief Scientist”. It also said NSW Planning had published a map outlining the planned koala corridors.

“Australian Ethical’s inference that the public exhibition lacks transparency for koala-corridor calculations is demonstrably incorrect given the extensive information that has been published,” Lendlease said in a statement.

Financial institutions urged to follow

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Australia’s conservation scientist Dr Stuart Blanch welcomed the news and said they hoped other financial institutions took note.

“We’re familiar with banks divesting from coal, oil, and gas, but Australian Ethical has made a stand to protect nature,” Blanch said.

“We hope other financial institutions will take note of what Australian Ethical has done and commit to divesting from corporations who are destroying nature, particularly the habitat of endangered species such as koalas.”

While Lendlease had taken on board some feedback, Blanch said they were still proposing to bulldoze habitat trees. The WWF is calling on Lendlease to provide detailed plans on how it will protect and restore vegetation buffers based on science.

“People need homes, and so do koalas,” he said.

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