The koalas of Campbelltown have been, and will continue to be, our key environmental consideration in our planning decision making. We’re proud of the commitments we’ve made to protect and enhance their population and the work we’re doing to meet the policy of all three tiers of government.
A ‘do-nothing, no development scenario’ would see the koala population decline in the area because of car strike incidents on Appin Road and loss of habitat through ongoing agricultural and land clearing practices.
The Figtree Hill project already has environmental approvals in place from the local, state and Commonwealth Governments, and we’re committed to protecting and growing the Campbelltown koala population through our comprehensive $35 million koala conservation plan.
Here’s some of the koala conservation actions we’re taking:
Appin Road upgrades including koala fences and underpasses
As part of our commitment to protecting and enhancing the local koala population, we’ve proposed to the state government to make Appin Road safer for koalas and motorists alike.
We’re ready to fund and build two underpasses, one at Noorumba Reserve and another at Beulah Reserve. These locations are immediately to the north and south of our project’s planned construction area.
As the owner of Appin Road, the state government is responsible for managing road upgrades and we need state government consent to construct this infrastructure that’ll save koalas from a high fatality rate. Tragically, on average, three to four koalas are killed each year on this road.
To further reduce koala fatalities on Appin Road, we also propose to construct exclusion fencing which would keep koalas away from roads and keep dogs out of koala habitat.
The NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer’s expert koala panel advised that if koala numbers are to thrive at Gilead four actions need to occur, they are:
- Increase habitat: we propose to rehabilitate and protect 220 hectares.
- Inclusion of underpasses: we have offered to build two under Appin Road.
- Exclusion fencing: we propose to construct 22 kilometres.
- Active predator management: more than $2m allocated to ongoing management plans.
Image: Concept design for the proposed Beulah underpass.
Improving core koala habitat before construction commences
Under our proposal, more than 53% of the original Gilead Estate will remain bushland, heritage homestead or parkland. That’s an area larger than Sydney Olympic Parklands.
Importantly, we’ve made a commitment that at no time throughout the construction program will there be less core habitat available to the local koala population than they have today.
We’re also focused on ensuring koala habitat is improved before construction commences.
We’ve already invested $1.6 million into the state government’s Biodiversity Conservation Trust, with a further $650,000+ to be invested shortly. These funds are being used for active conservation management at Figtree Hill, and we’ll continue to invest in the Trust for future stages of the project.
Bushland rehabilitation works have already commenced, and the koalas will continue to have access to the same high-quality habitat while the construction works are focused on the existing cleared paddocks. In addition, we’ll erect fencing to keep koalas safe during this time and allow their free movement to access core habitat.
By continuously improving the environment for koalas as we complete the project, over time our proposal could double the site’s koala carry capacity.
Initial conservation works have already been completed on site, including active conservation of 22 hectares of bushland. We believe getting a head start on this important work will help secure long-term biodiversity outcomes.
Video: Drone footage of the Figtree Hill site
Protecting the koala population from agricultural impacts
While it’s recognised that the local Campbelltown koala population is recovering in numbers since first studied in the 1980s, it’s also clear that the impact of agriculture on the Gilead site since the 1850s has significantly decreased koala habitat.
As an example, the upper canal and Appin Road have been physical barriers to east-west koala movement between the Georges and Nepean Rivers. Under our proposal, we’ll facilitate safe koala movement between these rivers for the first time in more than a century.
Without the project, the quantity and quality of habitat will continue to decline because neither current NSW land clearing legislation, nor the Koala SEPP, provide any real protection for koala habitat from agricultural practice.
After more than a century of agriculture and livestock grazing the site is a highly modified landscape with declining natural ecological values. Our proposed project has been designed in the best interest of the natural environment, specifically the local koala population, to secure their long-term viability and allow them to thrive into the future.
However, this reversal in ecological decline can only occur if balanced with urban development to enable the significant investment in conservation and sustainability measures to be delivered.
Delivering community and economic benefits
For families seeking to call Mount Gilead home, Figtree Hill will deliver around 1,700 new homes, helping to take some of the stress out of Sydney’s housing market.
For the broader community, the overall Mount Gilead development represents a $1.6 billion investment into the New South Wales economy, creating 2,000 full-time equivalent jobs annually for the next 10 to 15 years.
The development of the Mount Gilead project will bring a broad range of socio-economic benefits to the Campbelltown area, but perhaps most critically, it’s an opportunity to reverse the decline of on-site koala habitat and invest in infrastructure that’ll allow this population to continue to thrive and expand.
Please refer to further information available here.
This response was originally uploaded on 14 January 2021 and has since been updated with the latest information following ongoing strategic planning advice from NSW Department of Planning, Industry & Environment and Campbelltown City Council. On 24 September 2021, we updated the response to include the latest project information including drone footage of the site.